NEW YORK (CNNfn) - George Shaheen, the executive who transformed Andersen Consulting into the world's top advisory firm and led the fight to break the company off from its longtime parent, retired Tuesday to join an online grocery and drug store venture preparing to go public.
George T. Shaheen leaves the world's largest management and information technology consulting company after 10 years as its managing partner and chief executive. He is widely regarded for guiding the firm through its current string of five consecutive years of achieving at least 20 percent revenue growth.
Shaheen, 55, said in a statement that his preference would have been to retire from Andersen sometime next year, but the timing of the offer to assume the helm of Webvan Group Inc. was "not under my control."
Shaheen was not immediately available for comment, but an Andersen spokesman said he was presented with a financial package from Webvan -- currently preparing for its initial public offering -- that required him to make a decision quickly.
A Webvan spokeswoman declined to comment further, noting the company is currently in the quiet period that immediately proceeds any IPO. But Webvan recently sold a 6.4 percent stake in the company to an investment group headed by Goldman Sachs for $275 million, a price that valued the company at a whopping $4.3 billion.
Shaheen replaces Louis Borders as the president and chief executive officer of Webvan, an online grocery and drug megastore that began using its Web site and a fleet of custom delivery vans to fill Internet orders in the San Francisco Bay area in May.
Borders, Webvan's founder and current CEO, is expected to remain with the company to focus on long-term strategies. Shaheen was also named to Webvan's board.
Kelly assumes Andersen's helm
John T. Kelly, who currently oversees Andersen's $4.7 billion North and South American operations, was immediately named to replace Shaheen on an interim basis.
Kelly, 60, said he will sit on the executive search committee that is expected to name Andersen Consulting's new chief executive within the next six weeks.
Shaheen first joined Andersen in 1967 and has served as Andersen Consulting's managing partner since 1989, when the global consulting group became an independent unit under Andersen Worldwide's corporate umbrella.
Under his leadership, revenues increased nearly eight-fold while the company grew to more than 65,000 employees in 48 countries.
Last year was the firm's best, at least financially. The company managed to grow worldwide revenues at a 25 percent clip to more than $8.3 billion, and it is already projecting revenues of more than $9 billion this year.
At the same time, however, Andersen Consulting has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with Andersen Worldwide and its sister company: accounting firm Arthur Andersen.
Backed by a majority of his firm's partners, Shaheen led an effort in 1997 to make Andersen Consulting exempt from further contractual obligations to either Andersen Worldwide or Arthur Andersen.
Shaheen and others were upset that Arthur Andersen was apparently using an annual payment from Andersen Worldwide, made under their operating agreement, to ramp-up its own internal consulting business.
Kelly said Tuesday an arbitrator is expected to rule on Andersen Consulting's request within the next few months.
"We're focused on our clients," Kelly said. "We think that [situation] doesn't really affect our day-to-day operations or planning."