President and CEO
As the leader of a $6 billion startup, Mark is focused on the next big thing, from increasing TiO2 capacity to drastically lowering the global warming potential (GWP) of its refrigerants. At the same time, he sees the company's growth potential as firmly grounded in evolving its legacy of safety and stewardship.
Q. How did your career take you from chemical engineer to CEO?
A. When you're a student studying engineering, you have very little time for anything else. After graduation, business began to increasingly capture my attention. So I studied for my MBA at night. Shortly thereafter, someone told me that if you really want to learn about something, you have to learn from the inside . . . throw yourself into it. And so I did. For 34 years at DuPont, I worked in research and development, manufacturing, sales, and marketing. I lived in different parts of the world as well, which gave me new perspectives on doing business and people and cultures outside the United States. That's when my true education began. I often tell people: Be bold. Try something new. Sometimes you'll stumble upon something you really love.
In Chemours, you might start as an engineer but later find yourself on the business or finance side. There are all kinds of opportunities. Wherever I've worked, I have always found there is something new to learn. I think it's important to re-aim yourself every once in a while, and don't think you're ever making a decision that's going to have to last forever. I think that's the best way to find places where you can make the biggest contribution and be happiest.
Q. Where do you see opportunities for Chemours?
A. Chemistry is the center of this company, so we're very focused. Within that, I see three significant trends.
First, we see a growing middle class across the globe. In China, for example, you have more people buying more of everything, from cars to house paint, than ever before. To supply them, manufacturers need our chemistry to support their business goals – like product performance, quality, and production efficiency – while raising safety and stewardship standards.
Second, there is a trend in the chemical industry towards disaggregation. Chemours, itself, is a spin-off from DuPont. And other chemical companies are going through similar processes. But I think the trend will probably move back towards consolidation within the next four or five years. I'd love for Chemours to be part of that aggregation trend. As our industry evolves, so do our opportunities.
Third, for the first time in a long time, you have a trend towards lower-cost feedstocks for the North American chemical industry in the form of natural gas. I think companies like Chemours that have a strong base in the US are going to have an opportunity to expand into new and different product lines.
When you put these trends together, I think they are going to create tremendous opportunities for a company like ours.
Q. Chemours starts with some great brands and businesses – including Teflon™ and the world's largest TiO2 operation. What is the balance between managing what you have and evolving new products and processes?
A. This is somewhat chemistry-specific, but I think the bedrock of our company is how do we help the world operate in a safe and sustainable way.
We're in the midst of adding 15% new, low-cost capacity to our TiO2 business, which is going to allow us to service more customers with lower costs and evolve higher-value products. But you have to be a stewardship expert to earn the ability to add that scale.
We're ramping up our new Opteon™ YF product, which is really bringing low global warming potential refrigerants to the world. We're starting in cars and will move quickly to home and commercial refrigerators. And the Teflon™ brand is evolving as well; we have just launched a bio-based product called Teflon EcoElite™, which is being used in water-repellent sportswear.
In our Chemical Solutions business, we're going to try to grow faster than we have in the past, based on our ability to manage tough processes efficiently and safely.
Q. What is your leadership style?
A. I like to involve others. We don't have to get to the same answer, but I think having everyone's energy and expertise is important. I also value decisiveness. You can always regroup on business decisions and course-correct if needed. Finally, I really value talent. We have a lot of superbly talented people in Chemours. I will be looking to develop that talent and perhaps bring in more as we grow.
Q. What will make Chemours stand out as different?
A. We want to make it easy for customers to do business with us. We want to have a simple organization, so it is clear to us and to our customers who has decision rights for whatever needs to get done.
And we have a great two-hundred-year-old legacy from DuPont to build upon . . . a legacy of safety and the highest ethical standards, respect for the environment and people. All of that and more will be embodied in Chemours. We're going to be sizeable to start with, but more important than that, we're going to be a set of businesses that are focused, easy to do business with, and industry leaders.
Our aim is pretty straightforward: generate cash for our shareholders and new products and applications for our customers. Because, as our customers grow, we have the opportunity to grow as well.
"My first job was actually multiple jobs. While still in college, I worked on the loading dock for a major retail department store. But during my time there, I also sold shoes for them, worked in the hardware department, and as the janitor some mornings before my first class."
"In college I would play in a pickup basketball game every day at lunch and struck up an on-court friendship with an older guy named Mike, who turned out to be Dean Michael Howard of the School of Engineering. I'm indebted to him for pointing me towards engineering at a time when I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with my life."
Mark Vergnano was named the first CEO of The Chemours Company prior to its spinoff from DuPont in July 2015. He brought with him three decades of experience in the chemical industry as well as an enviable legacy of thoughtful and results-driven leadership.
Under Mark’s leadership and with an ambitious five-point transformation plan as its blueprint, the company navigated financial uncertainties and addressed the challenges associated with building a new company from the old—challenges that included adopting policies more appropriate for a smaller company and creating a distinctive corporate culture, rooted in entrepreneurship. This transformation—this re-invention—complete, the CEO is now leading a company poised for future profitable growth.
Mark is widely known throughout Chemours as an accessible and collaborative leader. He’s sought to build a culture in which employees at all levels feel free to contribute ideas for improving the company and upholding its corporate values. Vergnano has a passion for safety, one of those values. As an expression of this commitment, he has served on the board of the U.S. National Safety Council (NSC) for seven years, and, in 2017, was welcomed as chair of the NSC Board of Directors.
Vergnano began his career at DuPont in 1980 as a process engineer in its fibers business. He went on to serve the company in various leadership capacities and geographic locales over the next 35 years with distinction, culminating in his appointment as executive vice president in October 2009.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Vergnano received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut and master's degree in business administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a member of the University of Connecticut School of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Engineers and Hall of Fame.
Mark serves on the board of directors for the American Chemistry Council and on the executive committee of the Society of Chemical Industry. He also serves on the advisory board for the University of Connecticut School of Engineering and is a member of the board of directors of Johnson Controls International.