Leadership change at La-Z-Boy, Darrow to retire as CEO
February 17, 2021 | 10:48 am CST
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Pictured left to right: Kurt Darrow, Melinda Whittington and Robert Lucian

MONROE, Mich. - La-Z-Boy Inc. announced that Kurt L. Darrow will retire from his positions as president and CEO effective April 25, after more than 40 years of service at the residential furniture giant. He will remain chairman of the board of directors, in a non-executive capacity.

Current CFO Melinda D. Whittington has been unanimously appointed by the board to serve as president and CEO. She was also elected to serve on the board of directors, effective April 25. Robert G. Lucian, vice president, Finance, will succeed Whittington in the role of CFO.

La-Z-Boy is ranked 13 on the FDMC 300 list of the largest North American wood products producers, based on sales.

Darrow joined La-Z-Boy in 1979 and was named president and CEO in 2003 and chairman in 2011. He is credited with accelerating the company’s transformation from solely a chair manufacturer to one that manufactures and furniture for every room in the home. Under his leadership, La-Z-Boy has become one of the most recognized brands in the furniture industry, is the largest reclining chair manufacturer worldwide, and is the second-largest manufacturer/distributor of residential furniture in the United States.

W. Alan McCollough, Lead Director of the Board, commented, “Kurt has made a significant impact on La-Z-Boy Inc. During his tenure as CEO, he strengthened the La-Z-Boy brand, honed the company’s portfolio, championed and evolved the company’s integrated-retail strategy, and entered the company into the e-commerce arena. Kurt’s vision for the future helped transform La-Z-Boy’s global supply chain into a value-creating asset and set the company on a course for continued growth and profitability. Kurt led the company through two of the most challenging times in its history, the Great Recession and, more recently, through uncharted territory resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

"La-Z-Boy was fortunate to have a CEO of his caliber. On behalf of the Board and the entire La-Z-Boy organization, I thank him for his many contributions to the company and look forward to his continued leadership of our board,” McCollough said.

"It has been an extraordinary honor to serve as La-Z-Boy’s president and CEO for the past 17 years, as well as chairman of the board since 2011," Darrow said. "I have had the opportunity to watch and be part of this company’s evolution from a manufacturer of a single product, the iconic La-Z-Boy recliner, to become the second-largest provider of residential furniture in the U.S., with a growing and vibrant La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries® retail network. As a team, we have delivered long-term profitable growth in a dynamic industry, which has weathered monumental change. I am proud of every employee across our organization, all of whom have and continue to contribute to our success, and it has been a motivating and gratifying privilege to work with them while honoring the legacy of our founders and the values they instilled upon our company and culture.”

Whittington takes over as CEO with more than 30 years’ expertise in consumer products, operational and financial matters. "It is the right time for Melinda to take the helm," Darrow said. "Her strategic acumen and demonstrated leadership skills position her to successfully lead La-Z-Boy to and through its next chapter of growth. The company is in excellent shape and, as I step away from the day-to-day operations, I have every confidence Melinda and our top-tier leadership team will leverage the many opportunities that lie ahead for La-Z-Boy.”

Whittington said, “I am honored by the opportunity to lead La-Z-Boy, with its rich and storied 94-year history and iconic brand. We have a solid platform from which to grow and prosper and a bright future ahead. Our team is proven, passionate and skilled, and we will capitalize on opportunities for future growth and innovation, including the build out of our omnichannel presence while we help consumers turn their houses into homes. I would like to thank Kurt and the Board for placing their trust and confidence in me as I move into the CEO role and lead a company made up of people with extraordinary talent and dedication.”

She added, “I look forward to working with Bob as our new CFO. With his strong financial expertise and business acumen, including more than three decades of experience at The Procter and Gamble Co. (P&G), he will seamlessly move into the CFO role. During his last two years as La-Z-Boy’s VP, Finance, he brought meaningful improvement to the organization’s finance processes and business decision-making. I’m confident he will continue to provide financial and business leadership as our CFO.”

Lucian joined La-Z-Boy in 2019 as vice president, Finance, where he is focused on sustainably improving monthly and annual business forecasting and planning processes, capital budgeting, market pricing and financial analysis of supply chain network design and new product opportunities.

Headquartered in Monroe, Michigan, La-Z-Boy's (NYSE: LZB) Wholesale segment includes England, La-Z-Boy, American Drew®, Hammary®, and Kincaid®. The company-owned Retail segment includes 158 of the 351 La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries® stores. Joybird is an e-commerce retailer and manufacturer of upholstered furniture.

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]