Mark Olivie, Armstrong Floor Products president and CEO.
Less than a week after the company filed for voluntary reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, executive managers of Armstrong World Industries met with the press to clarify the reasons for its actions and discuss the impact of the decision on its flooring business. Participating in the briefing for the company were: Mark Olivie, recently named president and CEO for Armstrong Floor Products; Frank Ready, senior vice president of sales & marketing, Residential/Commercial Floor Divisions; and Steve Stockwell, vice president of Corporate Alliances.

According to Olivie, the Chapter 11 filing was a "last resort" for the company after it was unable to find a workable solution to address thousands of asbestos-related claims that threatened the organization's very existence. He went on to say that the business was continuing to operate without interruption and that suppliers would continue to be paid on normal terms for goods and services provided after the Chapter 11 filing date.

"We believe Armstrong will emerge as a much stronger company once the asbestos litigation is behind us," said Olivie. "Our overall objectives have not changed. We are determined to retain our leadership position in hard-surface flooring and strengthen that industry leadership role on a worldwide basis."

Olivie reported that distributors, suppliers and end-users alike have been highly supportive of Armstrong's action to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Nearly 30,000 letters of explanation were faxed to customers on the day of the announcement. The company also set up a telephone hotline and a special website that people can access to ask questions and obtain additional information. Armstrong's stock price had more than doubled a week after the announcement, indicating a favorable immediate reaction from the financial markets as well.

Asked to list the key areas of focus for the company over the next 12 months and beyond, Olivie quickly highlighted three areas. "First we need to be more customer-oriented, offering better support to all the decision-makers in the buying process, including the architect, builder, retailer and homeowner," he said.

"Second, we need to drive the industry forward with new multi-featured, high-performance products that excite the buying public. The third focus is on streamlining the Armstrong organization, with clear lines of authority and responsibility, in order to make it easier for our customers to do business with us." Olivie cited to the recent appointment of Richard Hendricks to the post of Head of Innovation as an important step in this direction.