From the October 2011 issue of Treasury & Risk magazine

CFO Pinch Hitters

Demand grows for temp finance chiefs who can jump in to help companies through reorganizations and turnarounds.

Lisa Donahue is not your usual CFO. Although her career includes finance chief positions at sportswear manufacturer Umbro, energy producer Calpine and battery maker Exide Technologies, none of these companies paid Donahue’s salary. Rather, her compensation came from AlixPartners, a firm that helps companies through operational reorganizations and corporate turnarounds. Donahue is an interim CFO at the companies she serves, a role she is presently filling at Boston-based Atlantic Power, a publicly traded power producer.

In June, the company announced the acquisition of Capital Power Income for $1.1 billion, effectively doubling its size. “They needed help with public filings, integrating the businesses and negotiating credit facilities for the working capital needs of both organizations,” says Donahue, managing director and co-head of AlixPartners’ turnaround and restructuring services practice. “The CFO they had for five years moved on, so I came in to fill the void in July.”

Becky Roof calls herself an “adrenalin junkie” for liking the atypical finance jobs she takes. The managing director at AlixPartners has been an interim CFO at several companies, including a one-year stint (2004 to 2005) at Atkins Nutritionals, a diet and nutritional packaged foods company, during its brand restructuring. “I can plug in anywhere there is a need, for as little or as long as that need exists,” Roof says.

Atkins Nutritionals was founded in 1989 by Dr. Robert Atkins, a cardiologist and well-known author of several books touting the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet. The company was launched as a provider of nutritional books and training and over the years ventured into selling supplements, nutritional bars, shakes and meal replacements. It then “went into everything,” Roof says, including pizza, frozen food and even dessert items like cake.

Sharing this excitement is Tom A. Anderson, a Tatum partner filling the role of interim CFO at O’Rourke Petroleum. “I like coming into an organization where there is this real sense of urgency, sort of like working in an ER as opposed to a family practice,” Anderson says. “There’s also a lot of candor surrounding these assignments. I can say what I want, and if the client philosophically doesn’t agree with it, I can say, ‘Thank you very much,’ and wait for my next assignment.”

Houston-based O’Rourke Petroleum so far is taking Anderson’s insights and advice to heart. The 75-year-old petroleum distributor or jobber has a very progressive and rapid growth strategy that includes acquisitions and organic growth. “We’ve originated an inland marine fuel and lubricant supply business and recently acquired the Dallas division of Commercial Lubricants,” Anderson says. “The company’s president is ambitious and energetic, and his plans for strategic growth are aligned with my own. We’re hunting for other acquisitions.” The company has enjoyed average 20% increases in annual gross profits over the past four years, he adds.

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