NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
In naming Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez as the new Commerce Secretary Monday, President Bush picked a powerful business leader and a minority who made it to the top of corporate America without a college degree.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gutierrez, 51, will replace Donald Evans, who said earlier this month he was resigning. The Cuban-born Gutierrez is the second Hispanic-American to be nominated for a Cabinet post, following the recent appointment of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General.
President Bush, speaking at a press conference, called Gutierrez "one of America's most respected business leaders" and a "great American success story."
Gutierrez has served as CEO of Kellogg Company since 1999.
In picking Gutierrez for the Cabinet post, Bush signaled that he is moving fast to fill several high-level vacancies across multiple government agencies as he heads into his second term. Bush, who has pledged to overhaul Social Security and the federal income tax, is also revamping his economic team.
Peter Morici, a former U.S. trade official who is now a professor at University of Maryland's business school, said Gutierrez appears to fit Bush's pattern of hiring trusted managers over untested innovators.
"Bush has a clear idea of what he wants to do on the economy," said Morici. "He's really not looking for people to come in and create new policy for him, rather to be a messenger and execute according to his blueprint."
In the weeks since outgoing Commerce Secretary Evans resigned, widespread speculation about potential successors had centered on one individual: Mercer Reynolds, a Cincinnati businessman who led Bush's re-election fundraising efforts and whose ties to the president run deep.
White House officials did not publicly confirm or deny the rumors about Reynolds' candidacy.
From poverty to power
Gutierrez does not have the same close ties to Bush that either Evans, a friend of the president's for three decades, or Reynolds, has.
He donated $6,500 to Republican candidates since 2000 and nothing to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Gutierrez was born in Cuba but fled to the U.S. with his parents and a brother in 1960. After his family moved to Mexico, he studied business administration at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Queretaro, in the country's center.
He did not graduate. Instead he got a job at Kellogg in 1975 as a sales representative in Mexico City -- work that he said Monday essentially involved selling Frosted Flakes out of a van.
He worked his way up the corporate chain of command in various marketing and product development roles. In 1984, at the age of 30, he took over the company's Mexico operations. He has also held senior positions at Kellogg's Canada and Asia-Pacific units. He moved into the parent company's executive offices in 1996.
In joining the Bush cabinet, Gutierrez gives up a post that paid him about $7.3 million in total compensation last year, including cash salary, bonus and incentive payments.
At the Commerce Department, Gutierrez will oversee an agency with more than 35,000 employees with a budget last year of $6 billion. The $175,000-a-year position entails promoting the U.S. economy, international trade and technological development.
The Commerce Department also runs the U.S. Census Bureau, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Weather Service.
Gutierrez said he would be honored to serve in the post and to "play a role in advancing the president's great and bold agenda for our country."
Kellogg shares fall
Kellogg investors were not happy to hear the news.
Although Kellogg moved quickly to announce that James Jenness, a company director and advertising industry veteran, would replace Gutierrez if he is confirmed by the Senate, the company's shares closed down more than three percent, to $43.47, in New York Stock Exchange trading Monday.
Analysts said the falling stock price, while not a no-confidence vote in Kellogg's new management, reflected how well-regarded Gutierrez is and some uncertainty about the company's future without him.
Gutierrez, who has also served as Kellogg's chairman, is credited with reinvigorating the Battle Creek, Mich.-based breakfast cereal and snack food giant. When he took over as president in 1998, Kellogg (Research) had been losing market share to arch rival General Mills for years and consistently missed earnings forecasts.
Gutierrez turned the company around, restoring growth in the cereal business and building an innovative culture, analysts said. He helped engineer the 2001 buyout of cookie and cracker maker Keebler Foods.
The company's stock has risen 26 percent in the last year.
"When he started as CEO I thought Kellogg was a very insular, not-very-worldly-wise type of company," said Timothy Ramey, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co., who does not own any Kellogg stock, nor does his firm have a banking relationship with the company. "It's now about as international and as sophisticated as they get."
Kellogg also reaffirmed its fiscal 2004 earnings guidance of between $2.11 and $2.13 a share and between $2.28 and $2.32 per share for 2005.
The 2004 outlook is roughly in line with Wall Street forecasts while the 2005 outlook is below or at the low end of analyst expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call have forecast 2004 earnings per share of $2.12 to $2.15 and 2005 earnings per share of between $2.30 and $2.53.