Case | HBS Case Collection | November 1996

Del Webb Corporation (A), The

by Jay W. Lorsch and Samanta Graff

Abstract

Begins with a company history, tracing the tenures of founder Del E. Webb and his successor as chairman and CEO, Robert H. Johnson. Johnson inherited a diversified company that was involved in construction, real estate development (including the famous Sun City), and the hotel-casino business. Johnson left Del Webb near bankruptcy in 1981, and renowned turnaround artist Robert K. Swanson was brought in to rescue the company. Describes Swanson's turnaround scheme and proceeds to highlight the misgivings of several corporate managers toward Swanson's managerial style, boardroom appointment, and strategic plans. When CFO Phil Dion was promoted to president and nominated to the board in 1987, he began to challenge Swanson aggressively. The board, which comprised many of Swanson's close friends and business colleagues, was supportive of Swanson. In the fall of 1987, crisis hit. The company was forced to take a close to $100 million write-down, the stock price took a dive, and Swanson and three board members resigned. The remaining board members were left with a faltering company and no succession plan.

Keywords: Management Style; Conflict Management; Governing and Advisory Boards; Management Succession; Crisis Management;

Citation:

Lorsch, Jay W., and Samanta Graff. "Del Webb Corporation (A), The." Harvard Business School Case 497-016, November 1996.