Getting to know Michigan Interim Athletic Director James Hackett

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Jim Hackett is announced as Interim Athletic Director by President Schlissel at a press conference this afternoon at the Fleming Building. Buy this photo

By Lev Facher, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 31, 2014

Following Dave Brandon’s resignation on Friday as Athletic Director, the University has named former Steelcase CEO James Hackett Interim Athletic Director.

Hackett is the current vice chair and director of Steelcase, an office furniture manufacturing company. He joined the firm in 1981 and spent the next 13 years working his way up through the management structure before he was named CEO in December 1994.

Hackett resigned the executive post on Feb. 28, 2014. He also serves as the non-executive Chairman of the Board at Fifth Third Bank, a member of the Ford Motor Company’s Board of Directors and a member of the Board of Trustees of The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.

“Jim is a highly experienced and respected business leader, a man of integrity, and a devoted member of our Michigan community,” said University President Mark Schlissel at the introductory press conference. “He led (Steelcase) as it transitioned from traditional manufacturing to an innovative global company, and now brings that success and experience in heading a complex organization to his interim role here.

“I am also very impressed with his interpersonal skills, and his longstanding commitment to serving the university.”

Steelcase reported a $70 million loss in 1994, but Hackett quickly steered the firm back into safer waters. His moves weren’t always free of criticism, though, especially after major downsizing actions that included a 2011 decision to shutter three factories. Jobs from one of those factories were later moved to a facility in Mexico.

While at Steelcase, Hackett oversaw the initial public offering of company stock, which doubled in value in the last five years after a rough first decade of trading.

Hackett was a teammate of Brandon’s on the 1973 Michigan football team, which was Bo Schembechler’s fifth year as Michigan’s head coach. A linebacker, Hackett’s freshman year coincided with Brandon’s senior season.

“I’d like to thank Dave Brandon for his commitment to Michigan,” Hackett said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and thank him again for an extraordinary commitment to this university.”

Hackett cited the strong financial footing of the Athletic Department and growth in varsity sports offerings as reasons Michigan can continue to be a destination program, and went out of his way to indicate that two of his all-time heroes are Michigan legends.

“My time as a student at Michigan introduced me to two people who would become lifelong heroes of mine,” Hackett said. “Early on, there was Bo Schembechler. The other was President Gerald Ford, whom I met later in his life after he retired from public office. Both of them would be quite certain that the future of Michigan is not in doubt.”

Schlissel was clear in indicating that Hackett’s role is an interim one only, and that the University will proceed with a search for a long-term candidate.