Kathy Marinello was CEO of Stream Global Services from 2010 to 2014.
Photograph by Peter Morrison—AP
By Claire Zillman
December 14, 2016

Hertz Global Holdings on Tuesday announced a shakeup of its leadership ranks, naming Kathryn Marinello as its next president and chief executive officer. Marinello, who was most recently a senior adviser to Ares Capital Management, will take over on Jan. 3 for John Tague, who’s retiring from the rental car company. The move pleased activist investor Carl Icahn, Hertz’s largest shareholder, who said he’s “excited about Hertz and its prospects with [Marinello] at the helm.”

Marinello’s new role will add another woman to the ranks of the Fortune 500 CEOs, which currently includes 24 female chief executives. Hertz landed at No. 269 on this year’s Fortune 500 list with $10.5 billion in revenue and $273 million in profits.

Marinello’s appointment also means two of the big three rental car companies are led by female CEOs. Pamela Nicholson is president and CEO of rival Enterprise, a private company. The third company in the trio, Avis, is helmed by Larry De Shon.

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Marinello takes over amid a string of recent troubles for Hertz, which has missed analysts’ earnings estimates in all but two quarters since 2013, according to Bloomberg. When the company reported disappointing financial results and cut its full-year forecast last month, it blamed the sharp dip in the value of small and midsize cars, which has plagued the entire auto sector as consumers increasingly turn to SUVs. But analysts told the Wall Street Journal that all rental firms are under that same pressure and suggested that wider problems at the company were at play in the profit miss. For instance, Hertz is behind on its plan to slash $350 million in costs this year, according to analysts.

Even Tague admitted on the last earnings conference call that he “underestimated the depth and the breadth and the complexity of the transformation we are now undertaking at this company,” adding, “We are behind schedule and we are challenged earlier than we thought.”

Following the earnings miss, Icahn more than doubled his stake, and there was speculation earlier this week that he might take the company private.

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Against this backdrop, Marinello’s appointment fits into the glass cliff phenomenon, in which women leaders are more likely to be offered the top position at companies that are struggling or in crisis. (Recent research from Utah State University found that of the 50 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies through 2014, 42% were appointed during times of crisis, compared with 22% of a matched sample of men in the same period.)

But based on her background, Marinello seems well positioned for the challenge. She has served as a CEO two times before, at Ceridian Corporation, an HR software provider, from 2006 to 2010, and at Stream Global Services, a business-process-outsourcing provider, from 2010 to March 2014. Those roles came after she spent more than ten years in a variety of senior jobs at General Electric.

She also holds a seat on General Motors’ board, which she assumed in July 2009 after the carmaker’s government-led bankruptcy. She’s also a board member at AB Volvo, and RealPage, Inc.

In a statement, Icahn gushed about Marinello’s track record, calling her “a proven CEO” who is “the right person to lead Hertz as we move forward.”

“Her consistent track record of successes in consumer and financial services, as well as technology businesses, is impressive,” he said. “She was extremely well-regarded at GE and successfully turned around Ceridian and Stream.”

 

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