The leader of the chemical company reflects on the trials of 2020, including a serious bout with COVID-19.
Every CEO faced enormous challenges in 2020, even if their companies were soaring, with the flight to work-from-home and the pandemic recession. At Columbus-based Hexion, those challenges were a bit more complicated for President and CEO Craig Rogerson.
Returning from investor meetings in New York City in mid-March, he and his wife both came down with COVID-19. While his wife began to recover, about two weeks after they became ill, Rogerson went into the hospital in Sarasota, Florida. He woke up on May 7 after six weeks on a ventilator. He spent months after that recovering from the effects of the disease. Calling himself an “early adopter,” he returned to work in December.Stay up to date with the region’s dynamic business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.
Rogerson praises the leadership team at Hexion, who executed contingency plans and kept the company running through an uncertain spring, summer and fall, with CFO George Knight at the helm. Hexion, which makes resins and coatings for the automotive, durable goods and other industries, was deemed essential and has continued operating its 46 global locations. Of its roughly 4,000 employees, about 250 work at its headquarters in Downtown Columbus.
The $3.4 billion chemical manufacturer went about its business so well, it went forward with a planned sale of its phenolic specialty resin, hexamine and European-based forest products resins businesses—which include the Bakelite brand—for $425 million to Black Diamond Capital Management and London-based private equity group Investindustrial. In September, the company outperformed the same month in 2019.
“We saw across most of the businesses a recovery that was faster than we thought,” Rogerson says. Strong U.S. housing construction and increasing demand for renewable energy contributed to Hexion’s bounce back from a rough second quarter. “Momentum has been good going to 2021,” Rogerson says. “I think that’s a good sign for all of us, presuming there is not another significant lockdown prior to the vaccine becoming effective. But we’ll see how that plays out. That uncertainty causes a lot of CEOs to pause.”