Tim Parker’s track record for firing employees as part of corporate workouts once prompted labour unions to nickname him "Prince of Darkness". But to shareholders and creditors, he is more like a Prince Charming, especially for his turnaround of luggage maker Samsonite, where he is chairman and chief executive.
When Parker joined Samsonite in 2008, the company was slogging through its worst year, burdened by heavy debt and poor sales. After a year of restructuring that resulted in staff reductions of 50 percent and 25 percent in the US and Europe, respectively, the company reported record-high profits in 2009 and 2010. Samsonite was listed in Hong Kong last year and is now debt-free, cash- rich and in the black. It has more than 40,000 sales points worldwide, including many in Asia, which represents half the company’s net sales. Parker expects to open 500 new stores this year in Asia as part of a major expansion plan, including 200 in China.
The South China Morning Post interviewed Parker on his visit to Hong Kong and asked him about the secrets of turning around troubled firms.