Eastman Kodak's chief is ousted

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ANOTHER veteran chief executive succumbed yesterday to the purges sweeping America's corporate boardrooms, as directors at Eastman Kodak unexpectedly announced the resignation of Kay Whitmore. The board said it hopes by year-end to find a successor from outside the company who will accelerate Kodak's turnaround.

Mr Whitmore had been under pressure for months to speed up cost- cutting at the big photography-to- chemicals group, which has turned in a series of disappointing profits in recent years. Criticism of his management style reached a high point on Wall Street in April, when Christopher Steffen, the aggressive finance director he recruited only three months earlier, resigned after clashing with him on the pace of change.

Mr Whitmore, 61, appeared to have recovered some support last month when he announced plans to spin off the Eastman Chemical division as a separate firm, and promised to detail further restructuring in September.

But a group of institutional investors is believed to have demanded Mr Whitmore's head after a disastrous private meeting in mid-July. Angered by Mr Whitmore's decision to hold the meeting without outside directors, they held an impromptu and almost unanimous vote on a 'laundry list' of cost-cutting measures.

As a result of the resignation, next month's announcement of new measures will be postponed. Mr Whitmore is, however, expected to report on the progress of his plan after Kodak's board meeting next Friday.

The news sent Kodak shares up sharply. At close of trading, Kodak was up dollars 3 1/8 at dollars 58 1/2.