By Jennifer Erb
2016-09-072016-09-12https://wvuieleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/[email protected]WVU IE200px200px
Rick Ott came from a blue collar family. His father was a shift worker at Shell Chemical in Belpre, Ohio and his mother did odd jobs to help support the family. “My parents were able to put their four children through college,” Rick says. Through a Shell program for summer students, Rick gained experience in a chemical manufacturing environment while earning money for college.
Rick came to WVU as a Biology major with the intention of being a pharmacist like his older brother. After his summer job his freshman year, Rick found that he enjoyed working in a plant environment much more. “The engineers who I met at Shell convinced me to transfer to engineering in my sophomore year.” He chose Industrial Engineering because he liked its business focus combined with engineering. When Rick graduated from college, he had an offer from P&G as well as Shell. He chose to stay with Shell and was initially assigned to be a maintenance engineer.
After a number of positions in manufacturing, Rick was selected for a variety of assignments to prepare him for a senior level position, including sales and strategic planning. In his mid 20’s, he was managing a polystyrene plant producing 300M lbs/yr. After 25 years with Shell, he found himself Global Manager for the Kraton polymers manufacturing operations with facilities in the US, Europe (3 sites), Japan, and Brazil.
Shell decided to divest itself of a number of businesses in 1999 and Rick stayed with the Kraton business unit. Kraton initially was owned by a private equity firm. Rick reflects on the differences in the two types of owners. “The private equity firm had a stronger focus on accountability and some people just couldn’t cope.”
The private equity owners offered the opportunity to take out a loan from the company and invest it in the company’s success. “That was a scary experience because the money I borrowed was more than I could pay back. But in three years, my investment tripled in value when the company was flipped to another PE firm.”
Rick’s positions there included VP-Manufacturing, and VP – Human Resources / IT. In 2009, Kraton Performance Polymers went through an IPO and became a public company. In 2012, he retired from the Company with 37 years of service.
Through a friend, Rick was asked to serve as a board member of Canexus, a chemical manufacturer based in Canada. Canexus went through a difficult time, and Rick was asked to be the interim CEO to stabilize the company until a replacement CEO could come on board. Rick remains a board member to this day.
As an Industrial Engineer who spent his entire career in the chemical industry, Rick encountered a number of people who doubted him because of his lack of a degree in chemistry or chemical engineering. “I always felt that my logical thinking and problem solving approach I gained from my Industrial Engineering degree put me in a good position to succeed in the chemical industry,” Rick says.
Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
Director since December 12, 2012
Mr. Ott is a retired Vice President, Human Resources and Information Technology at Kraton Performance Polymers Inc., located in Houston, Texas. He has 36 years of experience in the industrial and specialty chemical businesses, both regionally and internationally. During his tenure at Kraton, he previously held the position of Vice President of Operations, with facilities in North America, Europe, South America, and Asia. Mr. Ott served during the carveout of the Elastomers business from Shell Chemical Company in 2001, private equity ownership, and the subsequent IPO of the Company in Dec 2009. As a public company today, Kraton is a leading global producer of engineered polymers. As a senior manager with Shell Chemical Company, Mr. Ott held various positions in manufacturing and supply chain, organizational development, sales, and strategic planning.
Mr. Ott holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from West Virginia University.