March 11, 2015

4 Min Read
Packaging giant Sonoco sees changing of the guard
M. Jack Sanders, Sonoco


M. Jack Sanders, Sonoco

In the eyes of Harris E. DeLoach Jr., Sonoco is a mighty oak that grew from a tiny acorn over 114 years. Thirteen of those years were under the leadership of DeLoach as CEO of the global packaging giant that ends today as a new ring is added to its trunk with M. Jack Sanders' name on it.


DeLoach will still remain on as the executive chairman of board of directors, a position he has held since 2005, and will be a helpful voice to Sanders as he has been for years.


"I will not be as involved as I have been in the day to day and week to week and month to month," DeLoach said. "I'll still be around for Jack for any help I can give to Jack or the management team. Will it be different? Yeah, it will be different."


But for shareholders and employees, it will not be anything drastic or unexpected. Sanders, who has held several top roles at Sonoco during his 25 years, including recently as president and COO, said the planned secession is comfortable.


"I've been a part of the strategy we've put together and been in charge of making sure we were implementing it right," Sanders said. "It's not going to be a 180-degree change of direction. Certainly there are things we need to do better and improve on, and we talk about a 20 to 30-degree course correction so that's kind of how we're looking at it. I feel very, very good about my team and the team I'll be working with. They've come up through the business. They understand it, they've run different pieces of it. They're in different roles, but they're solid thinkers."


DeLoach, 68, has been with the company for more than 27 years, starting as vice president of administration and general counsel. From there DeLoach climbed the ranks as vice president of High Density Film Products Division, group vice president of Film, Plastics and Special products and several other positions before becoming COO in 2000 and CEO that July.


DeLoach said Sanders is inheriting a financially strong company, just like he inherited.


"He's inheriting a larger company. We were about $2.5 billion when I took over and close to $5 billion today," DeLoach said. "It's larger, it's a bit more complex, it's a good company. One of the hallmarks of Sonoco is that we've always been financially strong. The company is financially strong as it was when I took over 13 years ago."


The company, which is divided into four different sections -- consumer packaging, display packaging, paper and industrial converted and protective solutions -- has experienced record sales, thanks in part to its acquisition of temperature controlled packaging company Tegrant that is giving Sonoco exposure to a market they have long been interested in.
"Tegrant was our largest acquisition, and we wanted to basically create a new platform," DeLoach said. "We have an industrial and consumer business, and we've been interested in protective packaging for some time because we thought it had the characteristics of the market we wanted to be in. I'm not ready to declare it as a home run yet, but I'll declare it as a triple. It's going be good."


Sanders joined Sonoco in 1988 at 35 as national sales and marketing manager. In 1992 he oversaw the creation and development of Sonoco's protective packaging business and was promoted to division vice president and general manager of protective packaging 1998.


His rise continued in 2001 when he became a corporate officer and was named vice president of industrial products for North America and then global vice president in 2006. In 2008 he was named executive vice president of industrial with global operating oversight of the industrial markets.


Such a career gives Sanders an optimal perspective on operations across the company.


The future remains bright for the Fortune 500 Company that has its global headquarters in Hartsville, where it oversees 19,900 employees at 347 sites in 34 countries. A recent economic impact study found that Sonoco impacts the state to the tune of $1 billion annually.


Sanders and DeLoach will both attend the Sonoco shareholder meeting on April 17 in Hartsville where Sanders will speak to shareholders as CEO for the first time.


Source: Florence (SC) Morning News

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