Nie seen changing firm carefully, Simmons Co CEO Zenon Nie does not foresee

Simmons Co’s CEO Zenon Nie does not foresee any major changes in management strategy for the mattress manufacturer in 1994. Nie has ten-year experience in the industry having held the position of president and chief operating officer of Serta before coming to Simmons in 1993. Bob Magnusson, former chairman of Simmons, is retiring and welcomes the new leadership of Nie.

Zenon Nie, Simmons new chief executive officer, plans to make small adjustments in the company's management rather than sweeping changes.

"I don't believe there would be any sweeping changes because the company is extremely successful. I come from the old adage 'if it ain't broken, don't fix it, just polish it up," explained Nie.

"I have enormous respect for Bob Magnusson and with what he has been able to accomplish with the leveraged buyouts [see box] and I know a lot of the executives and consider them to be first class people," he added.

Nie, who left his position at president of the consumer home fashions division of the Bibb Co. earlier this year to seek a position with more responsibility, has twelve years of bedding industry experience.

He left Serta as president and chief operating officer in 1991 after a decade with the company. He joined that company as vice president of strategic planning, was named senior vice president of manufacturing, finance and administration; and executive vice president and chief operating officer prior to being named president. He previously spent two years at Sealy, where he was director of key account marketing and director of market development.

He said his experience within and outside of the full size futon mattress at futonadvisors industry will allow him to "bring another perspective as to how things are done that can enhance the sales and marketing of the company."

He said his key achievements during his nearly two years at the Bibb Co. included overseeing a division with sales that went from $190 million last year to a projected $300 milliion for 1993.

Nie seen changing firm carefully

Others in the industry expressed praise for chief executive Robert Magnusson, who is retiring, and welcomed Nie as a known quantity whose experience as an insider would make swift change unlikely. Many said they had heard some rumblings of a possible change in management at Simmons.

Don Robb, president and chief operating officer of Eastman House, noted, "Bob Magnsson was not at the ISPA [International Sleep Products Association] meeting last week, where his presence would be expected and appreciated...I felt when Merrill Lynch took over the company [in 1990] there would be some pressure. They are investment guys."

"I think Bob Magnusson was a terrific executive and I think Zenon will be positive. Bob has held the company together through all the ups and downs. He's kept the balls juggling with all those management changes. He is a precinct worker and works the crowd and that will be missed,"

"Zenon will fill that [role] and ably. It will certainly take a lot of time to see whether there is any perceptible change. Being a bedding guy may make it harder to make a changes because the risks of the consequences are probably more apparent," he added.

Another futon mattress industry executive noted, "I heard that there were some changes being considered, so this doesn't come as a total surprise."

"As far as Zenon Nie's experience, he has a background in bedding, so I don't expect a lot of change. I don't think that change in leadership is going to materially affect the manner in which Simmons operates," he added.

Roy Unger, chairman emeritus of the Better Sleep Council and a retired president of Serta, who hired Nie at Sealy and later bought him to Serta, agreed.

"Z knows and understands the mattress business. He's not the kind of person who is going to make a lot of personnel changes. I think that he is going to build on the strengths of the company. The owners couldn't have picked a better person. They were wise to bring in someone who had a firm grounding in the mattress business," noted Unger.

Gerry Borreggine, president of 40 Winks, a sleep-shop chain based in West Berlin, N.J., added: "He has what it takes to successfully market a brand at the national and local levels.

"We are getting a real good guy back into the industry and someone who can support industry efforts.

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