An Australian-born son of Greek immigrants, Andrew Liveris is not only the leader of a $57 billion industrial blue chip firm (IW 500/21) but also one of the most passionate and eloquent advocates for U.S. manufacturing.
Liveris began his career with Dow Chemical in 1976 as a chemical engineer and steadily rose through the ranks. In 1995, he moved to Hong Kong to run the Dow Chemicals Pacific unit. Three years later, he was promoted to vice president of the U.S. specialty chemicals business and moved to Midland, Mich.
In 2004, Liveris became Dow's CEO and soon began the task of transforming the firm from a commoditization-vulnerable chemical manufacturer to one more focused on specialized products with higher growth potential.
Liveris' path has not been without challenges. He spearheaded the $16.3 billion acquisition of Rohm & Haas announced in 2008, but the global economic meltdown forced Dow to seek financial backing from Berkshire Hathaway and Kuwait Investment Authority.
In January 2009, after Dow cut its quarterly dividend, financial pundit Jim Cramer accused Liveris of turning Dow "into a bad joke," but success has a way of being the best revenge in a volatile economic environment. For the third quarter of 2014, Dow reported sales of $14.4 billion, up 5% year-over-year, and EBITDA of $2.3 billion, up 24% compared to the previous year. Cramer promptly issued a buy recommendation, noting that "Costs are way down, revenues are way up and margins are terrific."
In 2011, Liveris authored Make It in America, in which he argued that the manufacturing sector "can create jobs and value and growth to a degree that the service sector cannot" and called for a more cooperative and supportive relationship between the U.S. government and businesses in order to compete with emerging economies.
In January 2014, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb accused Dow of having "woefully underperformed over the last decade" and called for the company to split off its petrochemical business. Liveris has resisted that call, arguing that Dow draws strength from its integrated structure, but he has also announced plans to divest Dow's chlorine business and other units totaling up to $6 billion, and emphasized Dow's dedication to investors.
Liveris' concern with manufacturing performance has not been restricted to Dow. In 2011, Liveris authored Make It in America, in which he argued that the manufacturing sector "can create jobs and value and growth to a degree that the service sector cannot" and called for a more cooperative and supportive relationship between the U.S. government and businesses in order to compete with emerging economies. He has been one of the few CEOs of an industrial giant in the U.S. not to shy away from the term "industrial policy."
Liveris has been a frequent visitor to the White House, serving on President Obama's original Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee and as co-chair of the "2.0" version of the committee. His service outside Dow includes membership on the IBM Board of Directors, vice chair of the Business Roundtable and trustee roles with the California Institute of Technology and the U.S. Council for International Business.