Don Bibeault ’63

donbibeault.jpgTurnaround for Troubled Companies

Some folks have a tough time dealing with adversity. Don Bibeault thrives on it. As a “turnaround” professional, Bibeault specializes in turning distressed companies into profitable ones. “It’s a little like being a knight at King Arthur’s Round Table and coming in to save the fair maiden,” he says.

During his stellar career, the northern California-based executive has rescued many “maidens.” In fact, in the field of corporate turnarounds, he’s a nationally recognized leader. His 1982 book, Corporate Turnaround: How Managers Turn Losers Into Winners (McGraw-Hill), was a seminal work in defining the entire turnaround industry. But the book happened almost by accident. “I did all the wrong things to get it published,” he laughs. “I only sent out six copies of my Ph.D. dissertation, but I got four offers.”

His work earned him the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the Turnaround Management Association in 2005. “It’s my calling,” says Bibeault. ”I am dedicated to making the turnaround industry more professional.”

Bibeault became involved in this kind of work through serendipity and his own proclivities. “I’d go into a company meeting and be appalled at the inefficiency. The only thing they could decide was when to have their next meeting!”

Since 1970, Bibeault has resuscitated dozens of troubled, profit-challenged companies, including Massey-Ferguson, a Canadian company with 75,000 employees. When he takes on a company rescue, Bibeault analyzes the company’s difficulties and takes measures, often drastic, to save it from extinction, or at least to add enough value to facilitate a sale.

“It requires the ability to move fast and decisively,” says Bibeault. “And the time you can move the fastest is when everyone’s sweating bullets and the place is in decline. Sometimes I feel like Gary Cooper in High Noon coming in to clean up a dirty town.”

—Bob Gulla