In another organizational shake-up at the Irvine Co., Thomas H. Nielsen was stripped of the title of president, three months after losing most of his day-to-day administrative authority.
Irvine Co. Chairman and majority shareholder Donald Bren said Tuesday that the Newport Beach land development company has eliminated the position of corporate president, which Nielsen held since 1983.
Bren also said that in the latest reorganization approved Monday by the Irvine Co. board of directors, the departments that had remained in Nielsen's control--urban planning and design, policy management and entitlement, and corporate affairs--have been assigned to Bren's close assistant, Gary Hunt. Hunt, who previously was a vice president, has been elevated to senior vice president and is one of the three managing officers who report directly to the executive committee, of which he is a member.
Nielsen lost most of his administrative duties in a reorganization last June, when the company consolidated management authority in an executive committee that began to meet weekly.
Will Serve as Company Spokesman
Nielsen, who has been given the new title of vice chairman, will stay on as a member of the eight-member executive committee and will continue to serve as the principal company spokesman "on all issues of major community, regional and statewide concern," Bren said in a prepared statement.
As part of the latest reorganization, two other executive committee members, Raymond L. Watson and John Galvin, also have been made vice chairmen. Watson, a former company president, has been working on major planning strategies, such as development plans for the so-called Irvine Coast property while Galvin, a former Aetna Life & Casualty senior vice president, last May was made head of Irvine Co.'s Financial Services Group.
Also in the current reshuffling, Roland Osgood, president of Irvine Pacific, Irvine Co.'s home-building division, has been made president of a newly formed unit, Irvine Co. Land Development Group, which, according to Bren, will have "responsibility for all land, infrastructure, residential construction and apartment management."
Osgood, Hunt and other company officials denied widespread reports that Irvine Pacific is being disbanded or will be laying off employees. As part of its earlier restructuring, Irvine Co. last July laid off 240 employees, representing 18% of its work force.
"There are no major layoffs or any layoffs anticipated at the company and no plans for IP (Irvine Pacific) to do anything else than what it is (doing)," said Hunt.
1 of 3 Managing Officers
In responding to questions about corporate strategy, Hunt said he will continue in the role of spokesman for Bren, who has persistently refused to talk to the media. He will also be one of three managing officers in charge of day-to-day company business who will report to the executive committee.
The other managing officers are financial services senior vice president Warren Fix and William H. McFarland, who is in charge of all of the company's operational divisions, including a new investment properties group, composed of Irvine Office and Industrial Co., Irvine Retail Development Co., Irvine Hotel Co. and the marketing communications division.
Nielsen said that for several months he had anticipated further organizational adjustments at Irvine Co. but that he only learned of his pending reassignment "within the last week."
Denying reports that he intends to resign, Nielsen said the reorganization will give him more time to negotiate with government and community leaders to help Irvine Co. pave the way for its development plans.
Nielsen's first priority, he said, is to work for a "yes vote" on the company's $300-million Newport Center expansion plan, which is on a single issue Newport Beach ballot scheduled for Nov. 25. Among his other activities and goals, he said, are the tackling of transportation and open space issues in Irvine and general plan amendments in the city of Orange and obtaining the California Coastal Commission's approval of the company's revised plans to build a series of hotels on the coastline between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach.
Nielsen said he will work closely with Hunt, who heads the company departments working on government entitlement and planning issues, and make recommendations to the executive committee. The only company employees that Nielsen now has reporting to him are a secretary and a community ombudsman.
Nielsen said he has been assured in his conversations with Bren that "there is an important role that he wants me to play with this company."