In 2006, Paul Diaz, the CEO of Kindred Healthcare, Inc., a $4.3 billion comprehensive health care service company, began ensuring that some Hispanic students will be ready for Corporate America. That year, the Georgetown University Law School graduate, who worked while holding a full law school schedule, set up a scholarship fund at Georgetown Law for students with financial needs and to promote ethnic diversity.
Mr. Diaz also takes an active role is shaping Kindred, No. 498 on the Fortune 500. And he better – as the nation's 77 million baby boomers age, their need and their demand for health care services will soar.
The Louisville, Kentucky company is a colossus with 500 locations and 6,300 beds in 39 states. Facilities include long-term acute care hospitals, award-winning nursing centers, institutional pharmacies, and a contract rehabilitation services business.
Prior to becoming a part of Kindred, Mr. Diaz, who is originally from Florida, worked as EVP and COO of Mariner Health as well as CEO, CFO, and general counsel of Allegis Health Services. His total compensation in 2005 was $6.5 million.
The member of the Corporate Elite with the most difficult assignment is Antonio M. Perez, 61. Thus far, the chairman and CEO of $14 billion Eastman Kodak Co. has received mixed reviews as he tries to transform the venerable film-based company that started in the 19th century into a profitable 21st century digital film, digital camera, and digital publishing dynamo.
On paper, Mr. Perez is the man to make the change. After all, as head of Hewlett-Packard's consumer division he led its foray into digital media and electronic publishing. Today, he engages in close combat with H-P, another bricks-and-mortar firm, for the lead in digital printing while Shutterfly, the online digital photofinisher, tries to vault over both of them.
Mr. Perez, who promises profitability by 2008, also faces a revolt from investors who have beaten down the company's share price while stock analysts signal hold not buy. At the end of 2006's third quarter, sales had fallen and Kodak, No. 155 on the Fortune 500, posted its eighth straight quarterly loss.
Yet there is also praise. Mr. Perez, who studied electronic engineering in his native Spain, has won investor kudos for firing 25,000 workers and investing heavily in digital photography. Kodak's digital cameras get solid reviews, and the company has won multiple awards for employee diversity during his tenure.
But some observers wonder if Mr. Perez, whose 2005 total compensation was $6.9 million, will be allowed to complete the restructuring or be replaced by a "new media" CEO. Those developments remain to be seen.
Lourdes M. Hassler, CEO of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs considers the Corporate Elite inspirational even if bloodied in corporate battle. Her group's goal is to transform Hispanics from simply being seen as consumers into employers, too. But to do that the percentage of senior-level execs must surge. Currently, only 4 percent of all MBA holders are Hispanic.
Ms. Hassler, who holds an executive MBA from Texas Christian University, says, "I see the Corporate Elite as the heartbeat of our future leaders. These role models show how we will be able to positively change the number of Hispanic high school, college, and MBA students [and graduates]."
Wrigley's William Perez agrees – especially with 40 percent of the Hispanic population under age 20. When children see "Hispanic leaders at the top of their game," he says, "I would hope that they will realize that a combination of education and hard work can open doors to a multitude of opportunities."
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