As CEO of Chemours, Mark Vergnano, 59, is transforming the 2015 DuPont Co. spinoff.
“We’re not DuPont,” he says of Chemours’ role as a corporate citizen, but it may as well be about Chemours’ identity. Its obsession with safety and integrity sound familiar, but then there’s its customer-centered value and a call for simplicity that’s led to a simplified structure and roles.
Its fifth value, collective entrepreneurship, aims to make “employees feel like owners, with no islands” and will probably show up in renovations to its century-old headquarters in Wilmington.
Phrases he used to describe renovations include “open layout,” “highly collaborative space,” “technology-oriented” and “a feeling of fun,” all befitting “a startup with a 200-year history.”
He looks forward to its landmark Rodney Square building—sold in January to the Buccini/Pollin Group, with space leased back long-term—being a social centerpiece for downtown.
In the community, he says the Chemours will focus on supporting what matters to employees (700 downtown) and its corporate strengths. For example, its safety skills could help make the city safer. He’s met with new mayor Mike Purzycki on “things that we’re good at and will help his agenda.”
“I couldn’t be more heartened by Chemours’ commitment,” Purzycki says. “We’re looking at some of our problems through a safety perspective as part of a healthy community.”
Vergnano’s career at DuPont began in 1980 as a process engineer. “After graduation [from the University of Connecticut, with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering], business began to increasingly capture my attention. So I studied for my MBA at night.” Good move. That 1985 degree helped him become a manager and sent him to Europe. Nearly five years in Geneva opened him and his family to different cultures. Noting that something as basic as bread varies by country, he says “you have to think different and put it into practice.” The promotions continued regularly, with increasing responsibilities for multiple units—research and development, manufacturing, sales and marketing—until DuPont’s 2015 spinoff of Chemours, and he was named president and CEO. Since 2009, he had been leading DuPont’s performance chemicals segment, and Chemours was to focus on that segment.
The transformation calls for reducing structural costs by $350 million, growing market positions, refocusing investments through acquisitions and divestitures, enhancing its leaner organization and optimizing its portfolio of products. Keystone products include titanium dioxide, Teflon, Freon and Opteon, its “non-ozone depleting, low global warming potential” cousin. Ultimately, he wants to create “a chemical company that adds value to everyone’s lives … in a colorful and capable world.”
For example, “chemistry-based ingredients” make “consumer goods like wearable technology and personal electronic devices be more durable, comfortable and high performing.