Fred E. Festa
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Fred Festa is the eighth chief executive to lead the company since its founding in 1854. He joined Grace as President and Chief Operating Officer in November 2003, became Chief Executive Officer in June 2005, and was elected Chairman of the Board in January 2008.
Through Fred's leadership, Grace has enhanced its standing as a premier global specialty chemicals and materials company with strong franchises in large global markets.
Fred has led the transformation of Grace into a fully-integrated global operating company. During his tenure, revenue increased 60 percent and net sales increased from $1.8 billion in 2003 to $3.1 billion in 2015. Adjusted EBITDA expanded from $252 million to $750 million, while Adjusted Free Cash Flow rose from $53 million to $430 million.
In 2015-16, Fred led the separation of Grace into two independent public companies that are expected to benefit from improved strategic focus, simplified operating structures, and more efficient capital allocation. The separation was completed through a tax-free spin-off of Grace's Construction Products segment and Darex Packaging Technologies business into a new company, GCP Applied Technologies Inc. (NYSE: GCP). Grace continues to operate the Catalysts Technologies and Materials Technologies business segments (excluding Darex).
Grace has completed 23 acquisitions and seven divestitures under Fred's leadership. The company's portfolio was rebalanced, expanding the breadth of the catalysts business and increasing polypropylene catalysts revenue more than $200 million in less than five years. The silica-related Materials Technologies segment was solidified and entered into pharmaceutical applications. Prior to the 2016 separation, the Construction Products unit expanded through new technologies and bolt-on acquisitions. Grace expanded its geographic platform, increasing emerging region sales from 21 percent to over 38 percent of total sales.
With the Board of Directors, Fred guided the company through the longest and one of the most complex and contested Chapter 11 reorganizations in history, ending on February 3, 2014. Under the reorganization, all pending and future asbestos-related claims are channeled to independent trusts and all non-asbestos creditors were paid in full.
Fred came to Grace from Morgenthaler Private Equity Partners where he was a partner. Previously, he was President and CEO of ICG Commerce.
At AlliedSignal, Inc. (now Honeywell) from 1993 to 2000, he held leadership roles in general management, business development, and finance in the company's specialty chemical, polymer, chemical intermediaries, and fibers businesses, including service as Vice President and General Manager of the performance fibers business.
Fred began his career at General Electric (GE), where he spent 12 years in financial management positions at five business units. He completed GE's Financial Management Training Program and its benchmark General Management Course.
Fred graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the State University of New York at Oswego.
Fred also has served since 2008 as an independent director of NVR, one of the largest home builders in the United States.
Hudson La Force
President and Chief Operating Officer
As President and Chief Operating Officer of W. R. Grace & Co., Hudson La Force is responsible for Grace's Catalysts Technologies and Materials Technologies business segments and Grace's global manufacturing and supply chain operations. As COO, Hudson is focused primarily on safety, sales growth, manufacturing excellence and capital investment. He was named to this role in February 2016 and elected to the Grace Board of Directors in November 2017.
Hudson joined Grace as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2008. In that role, he focused on improving the company's profitability, cash flow, and return on invested capital. During his tenure as CFO, gross margins increased eight percentage points, Adjusted EBITDA margins increased 11 percentage points, adjusted free cash flow increased nearly three times, and adjusted return on invested capital increased 11 percentage points. Hudson was deeply involved in Grace's internal transformation into a fully-integrated global operating company and its external transformation into two industry-leading public companies in February 2016.
Prior to joining Grace, Hudson served as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Counselor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, where he led a transformation of the department's management practices. He also served as a member of the President's Management Council.
Before entering public service in 2005, Hudson worked at Dell Inc., where he held general management and financial leadership positions at the company's headquarters in Austin, Texas and in China. From 2002 to 2005, Hudson served as a general manager for Dell in China, leading a $500 million business unit through a period of double-digit sales growth, triple-digit earnings growth and significant operational change. Before joining Dell in 1997, he worked at AlliedSignal, Inc. (now Honeywell), Emerson Electric Co. and Arthur Andersen & Co.
Hudson earned an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a Bachelor's degree at Baylor University. He is a board member of Madison Industries, a Chicago-based industrial holding company, and a former board member of KIPP DC, a public charter school operator in Washington, D.C
Thomas E. Blaser
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
On February 25, 2016, Thomas Blaser was appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. He is a member of Grace's leadership team and responsible for Grace's global financial management and information technology functions.
Tom is a seasoned finance professional and proven leader with strong specialty chemical industry experience with global companies.
Before joining Grace on February 11, 2016, he was President of Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC, a global agricultural chemical and life science business, where he also served for 10 years as Chief Financial Officer. Previously he held business development and financial leadership responsibilities with Honeywell and audit leadership roles at Price Waterhouse.
Tom earned an MBA at the Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in Accounting at Montclair State University.
ELIZABETH C. BROWN
Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer
Liz Brown joined Grace in 2015 to lead Human Resources and to serve as a member of the senior leadership team and an officer of the company. She directs the strategic design, development, and continuous improvement of the global organization with its 3,700 employees and operations in 30 countries.
Liz came to Grace from Tyco, a 57,000-employee fire protection and security company with operations in approximately 50 countries. Beginning in 2010, she held leadership positions of increasing responsibility at Tyco. As Vice President, Human Resources, she provided HR leadership for several business units and global functions. She also led the Talent Center of Excellence, spanning talent management, talent acquisition, and organizational development. Prior to Tyco, Liz held Human Resources leadership roles with global chemical company LyondellBasell Industries.
Liz earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California at Los Angeles and is accredited as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institute.
Keith N. Cole
Vice President Government Relations and Environment, Health, and Safety
Keith Cole's appointment in 2014 reflects the importance of environment, health, and safety at Grace and the full integration of the company's EHS, regulatory, and public affairs activities. Reporting to Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Fred Festa, Keith directs the company's EHS operations and government relations in more than 40 countries where Grace has operations.
For over a decade prior to joining Grace, Keith held leadership positions in government relations and public policy for General Motors Corporation, including assignments in Shanghai and Washington, D.C. In these roles, he focused on GM's energy and environmental agenda for the company's advanced technology and promoted GM interests in growth markets in China, Russia, CIS, India, ASEAN, Africa, and the Middle East.
From 1999 to 2002, Keith was a partner in the Washington law firm of Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman, LLP, and from 1997 to 1999 he was a partner with the law firm of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C. In these roles, he provided government relationships and regulatory counsel on environmental, energy, and natural resource matters.
Prior to his lobbying experience, he served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate, Small Business Committee (1995-1997); and Minority Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives, Energy and Commerce Committee (1989-1995). During this service was involved in a wide variety of matters including RCRA, Superfund, and the Clean Air Act.
Keith earned his Juris Doctor at the University of Virginia School of Law, and his bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering & Material Science from Duke University.
MARK A. SHELNITZ
Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
Mark A. Shelnitz manages all legal matters affecting the company worldwide, including the management of the legal department. As corporate secretary, he is responsible for corporate governance and matters relating to the activities of the board of directors.
Mark joined Grace's legal team in 1983 and most recently served as associate general counsel of the company. He led efforts relating to Grace's chapter 11 proceeding and litigation. During his career, he has handled numerous acquisitions and divestments, securities law compliance, and general corporate and commercial law matters.
Mark earned a B.S. degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a J.D. degree from New York University School of Law.