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Geneva Chairman Rodnick Starts Putting Retirement Plans to Work

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For 13 years, Richard M. Rodnick has been giving advice to entrepreneurs about selling their businesses and coping with early retirement. Now he is ready to take some of his own advice.

Rodnick, chairman of the Geneva Cos. in Irvine, has relinquished some of his control of the mergers and acquisitions firm to Thomas J. Letarte, who was named president and chief operating officer. Rodnick will likely step down completely within a year.

The transition period is designed to keep the business running smoothly while Letarte who arrived from New York at the beginning of the month, gets accustomed to his new positions at Geneva.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Rodnick, 61, said Tuesday. “But there is a time you should leave the party, and I believe that time is here. You make your contribution, and perhaps others can go on and build the company further.”

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Letarte, 35, has been with Chemical Banking Corp. for 12 years and was managing director in the leveraged-finance division of the banking and corporate finance group. He also has worked in the company’s merchant banking operation.

The transition has been long anticipated. Rodnick sold 79.9% of the company in 1986 to Chemical Venture Partners, a subsidiary of Chemical Banking in New York. Last November the parent company, which owns Chemical Bank in New York, bought the remaining stock and converted the firm to a separate subsidiary. Terms of the transactions were not disclosed.

Rodnick will remain as chairman and chief executive through the summer, when he is expected to leave Geneva headquarters but continue to do consulting work for the firm under the title of chairman emeritus.

During Rodnick’s tenure, Geneva has become the world’s leading initiator and closer of mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, ranking at the top in an annual industry survey for the last three years. Its annual revenue has grown to about $100 million.

Geneva, a consortium of companies targeting different aspects of the business, has 500 employees in Irvine, Chicago, Teaneck, N.J., and the central Florida cities of Orlando and Clear Lake. It also has a working relationship with 61 investment bankers worldwide, with a primary operation in London.

Geneva is the sixth and largest company that Rodnick has built and sold. Others were in the construction, finance, training and software fields. The experiences in selling those companies have helped him advise executives looking to sell their own firms.

Most often, he said, they want to know what to do after they have sold their companies.

“I always tell them to do nothing for six months,” Rodnick said. “When you’re on an emotional high or low, you don’t make your best decisions. I intend to follow my own advice.”

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He will, however, teach next year at UC Irvine’s Graduate School of Management.


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