- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

President Bush yesterday nominated Cuban-born Carlos Gutierrez, who once sold Frosted Flakes cereal from a van in Mexico and rose to head the nation’s largest cereal company, for the post of commerce secretary.

The nomination of the chief executive officer of the Kellogg Company marks the second time since Mr. Bush’s re-election that he has chosen a Hispanic for his Cabinet.

“Carlos Gutierrez is one of America’s most respected business leaders,” Mr. Bush said in a White House announcement. “He is a great American success story. [Mr. Gutierrez] has been an effective, visionary executive. He understands the world of business, from the first rung on the ladder to the very top.”

Two weeks after naming Alberto Gonzales as his attorney general nominee, the president continued to reward Hispanics — especially Cubans. Exit polls showed that Mr. Bush boosted his share of Hispanic votes to 44 percent, up 11 percentage points from 2000. Cubans in Florida voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Bush, helping him win that state’s 27 electoral votes.

Mr. Gutierrez, 51, was 6 years old when Fidel Castro’s guerrillas seized Havana.

“I have had the opportunity to live that American dream, so I know that the president’s vision is noble, I know it’s real and I know it’s tangible,” Mr. Gutierrez said.

After coming to the United States in the 1960s, he said, his family “started essentially from scratch at that time. Almost 30 years later, I joined the Kellogg Company and started selling cereal out of a van in Mexico City.”

Mr. Bush noted that as a young immigrant, Mr. Gutierrez “learned English from a bellhop in a Miami” hotel and “took his first job for Kellogg as a truck driver, delivering Frosted Flakes to local stores.”

But Mr. Gutierrez rose quickly after joining the giant cereal company in 1975. By 1984, he was the company’s supervisor for Latin American marketing services. In 1989, he was appointed president and chief executive officer of Kellogg Canada Inc. He became general manager of the Battle Creek, Mich.-based U.S. cereal division in 1993. In 1998, he was appointed president and chief operating officer of the company.

Last year, Mr. Gutierrez received about $7.5 million in total compensation, including salary, bonus and incentive payments, according to a Kellogg proxy statement. He owns or has option rights to 2 million shares of company stock.

During his tenure with Kellogg, Mr. Gutierrez narrowed the company’s focus to cereal and snacks while reducing debt. Since he began running Kellogg, sales rose from $6.2 billion in 1999 to $8.8 billion last year and earnings per share increased from 83 cents to $1.92.

He has been a campaign donor to Republicans, including Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, and contributed to three fellow Cuban-Americans, Florida Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Gutierrez will replace Donald L. Evans, one of several Bush Cabinet members to leave the administration after the president’s re-election this month.

Mr. Gutierrez will head a Cabinet agency of 40,000 workers, which compiles economic data and adjudicates trade complaints against imported products such as shrimp from Thailand, lumber from Canada and hand trucks from China.

He will inherit an agenda Mr. Evans developed to help manufacturers by cutting government regulations, reducing taxes and managing the end of global trade restrictions on textiles in 2005.

“Mr. President, I believe passionately in your vision of a 21st century where America is the best country in the world with which to do business; we have the best people, we have the training, we have the workers, we have the culture,” Mr. Gutierrez said yesterday.

“I believe passionately in your leadership and the direction you’ve set. I believe in your call for a vibrant, growing entrepreneurial society, where everyone has the opportunity to experience the joy and the pride of ownership, where everyone can contribute, and where everyone can benefit.”

Because Kellogg sells globally and operates manufacturing plants in 19 countries, Mr. Gutierrez is a good choice to take over the commerce post, said former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who now heads the National Association of Manufacturers.

“He is the most international person ever to be commerce secretary,” Mr. Engler said. “He really knows what is happening in markets around the world.”

But he’ll have some tough work ahead. The Chinese-U.S. trade gap is the largest in history and U.S. companies contend they cannot compete with Chinese companies because of cheap wages, Beijing’s low-cost government loans and an undervalued currency.

Still, Mr. Bush said Mr. Gutierrez is uniquely suited for the commerce post.

“In Carlos Gutierrez, the Department of Commerce will have an experienced manager and an innovative leader,” Mr. Bush said. “He will be a strong, principled voice for American business and an inspiration to millions of men and women who dream of a better life in our country.

Mr. Bush is setting up an almost entirely new economic team for his second term. National Economic Council Chairman Stephen Friedman announced last week that he will be departing, and Council of Economic Advisers Chairman N. Gregory Mankiw also plans to leave.

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow may only stay until the middle of next year, and White House spokesman Scott McClellan, asked about Mr. Snow’s performance, said only: “The president appreciates the job Secretary Snow is doing.”

• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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