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Now He's the Sole CEO at Schwab Brokerage

May 12, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — David Pottruck has been charging ahead for decades, as a star wrestler in college and then as a marketing hotshot who rose to the top of Charles Schwab Corp.

Now the 54-year-old is steering a stock brokerage that seems stuck in reverse.

On Friday, he took over as sole chief executive, a job he has shared with the company's founder, Charles Schwab, 65, since 1998. Schwab continues as non-executive chairman.

The company has been struggling. It has laid off nearly 10,000 workers in three years as revenue and profit shriveled. Its shares have nose-dived, from more than $51 in 1999 to $8.88 on Friday. .

The market's hangover from high-tech excesses and corporate misbehavior has had a lot to do with Schwab's troubles, but Pottruck says he and Charles Schwab shoulder blame too.

"Neither of us are feeling particularly distinguished with the company's performance," Pottruck said before taking over the reins.

In the late 1990s, Schwab thrived, positioning itself as the Costco of finance -- a self-service investment warehouse offering low prices on quality products.

Now Pottruck is trying to add a touch of Tiffany's, with deluxe products for customers.

Since coming to Schwab in 1984 as the top marketing executive, Pottruck had dreamed of running the company. But he thought he topped out when he was promoted from chief operating officer to co-CEO in 1998.

Even as sole CEO, Pottruck doesn't expect to make a major move without consulting Schwab, who owns 20% of the company.

"He's got a great athlete's drive to win," said Robert E. Mittelstaedt Jr., one of Pottruck's classmates and now a vice dean at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

Despite the company's struggles, Pottruck isn't pining for a return to the delirium of the 1990s.

"We don't need to go back there again," he said.

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