Spartanburg-based Milliken & Co. announced a change in leadership Monday.
J. Harold Chandler was elected chairman, president and CEO, effective immediately, following the resignation of Joseph M. Salley as president and CEO and as a member of the board of directors, the company announced.
Chandler has served on Milliken’s board of directors for 14 years and as chairman the past five years. He retired in May as chairman of the Wofford College board of trustees.
“We sincerely thank Joe Salley for his service to Milliken, which covers a span of 20 years, the past eight as president and CEO” Chandler said in a statement. “I am honored to take on the additional roles of president and CEO.”
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Milliken, named for the late textile magnate Roger Milliken, is a global technology-based company headquartered in Spartanburg on a 600-acre campus. It has 35 manufacturing facilities and more than 7,000 employees worldwide.
The company, which dates back to 1865, provides specialty chemical, floor covering and performance materials “to add value to people’s lives, improve health and safety and help make our world more sustainable,” according to the company’s website.
The circumstances surrounding Salley’s departure were not immediately clear. Milliken spokeswoman Courtney Edwards called it “an internal matter.”
“Our focus is on the transition and making sure we can continue business as usual,” Edwards said.
Richard Dillard, Milliken’s former corporate director of public affairs, said he worked with both Salley and Chandler during his years at Milliken. Dillard retired in 2015.
“I was very pleased to hear Mr. Chandler will be leading the company going forward,” Dillard said. “I developed a huge amount of respect for him. He seems to be a man of great integrity, sharp intellect and a well-honed understanding of business. Mr. Chandler is the type of person you need to step in at this time of transition.”
Dillard declined to comment on why Salley may have stepped down.
“When someone suddenly leaves the company and you don’t have a knowledge of the circumstances of the departure, I think it’s best not to discuss the individual or the circumstances,” Dillard said.
Spoartanburg County Councilman David Britt, chairman of the council’s Economic Development Committee, said he had briefly known Salley and Chandler, and he said he believes that Chandler will be good for Milliken and Spartanburg County.
“I cannot say enough positive things about Harold Chandler,” Britt said. “As chairman, he helped to transform Wofford into one of the top-flight colleges in the United States, if not the world.”
He added: “Having been chairman at Milliken, he will help do the same for Milliken.”
Salley, who worked with Milliken for 20 years, formerly served as chief operating officer and was elected CEO in 2008 when Ashley Allen retired. Allen succeeded Roger Milliken, who retired in 2005. Milliken served as president of the company from 1947 to 1983, then became chairman and chief executive officer.
Salley formerly served as chairman of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce board and has served on the boards of the Citadel Foundation, the Society of Chemical Industrial Executive Committee and the American Chemistry Council.
He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Chandler is a 1971 graduate of Wofford College, where he served on its board of trustees for 24 years, the last five as its chairman. He received his masters of business administration degree from the University of South Carolina and later completed post-graduate studies at Harvard Business School.
He has served on the boards of directors of eight public and family-owned companies over the past 30 years.
Chandler said in a statement his first step “will be to ensure an effective transition and to maintain the positive momentum from which the company is currently benefiting.”
“Together, we will continue to innovate, contribute to Spartanburg and our other communities, and be a leader in our industry,” he stated.
Milliken is a major employer in Spartanburg County and an important corporate citizen, Britt said.
“Milliken, like Michelin and BMW, we need them to be an active partner with us as we work to make Spartanburg the county we know it can be,” Britt said.
Dillard said he was with Milliken & Co. for 39 years, and he believes that the late Roger Milliken would be fine with the leadership change.
“Mr. Milliken built Milliken into a world leader in innovation, and the solid foundation he put into place will easily endure changes in leadership,” Dillard said.