When a company founder and its public face dies, it can often derail a business.
Not so for BBC International.
The Boca Raton, Fla.-based company had been planning nearly two years for the day when its legendary leader, Bob Campbell, would no longer be able to run it.
Shortly after Campbell’s death in February — he’d been actively running it at the age of 82 — many of the company’s longtime leaders immediately put the well-crafted succession plan into action.
For starters, it promoted 49-year-old Josue Solano, who’s been with BBC for more than a decade, to the CEO job, where he’s charged with company strategy and senior management.
Part of the plan also included elevating Campbell’s son, Seth, to president, where he will steer all sales and marketing, design and business development. And 79-year-old CFO Don Wilborn, who worked alongside the elder Campbell for 45 years, will continue to oversee the financial stability of the company.
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“Nobody can replace Bob,” said Solano. “But I’ve literally sat in between Bob and Don for the last 16 years. I’ve had the unique opportunity to be in the room with those guys, witness firsthand how they make decisions year after year.”
While Bob Campbell built the company he founded in 1975 into a licensing and owned-brand global powerhouse, he didn’t do it alone — in fact, most of the executive team he surrounded himself with has been in place, on average, for a dozen years.
For Solano — who most recently served as president and COO, and SVP of operations before that — the transition in the last month, he said, has been seamless.
The reason, he said, is that in large part, he and Seth Campbell have spent years learning all aspects of the business and rising through it.
Soon after Bob Campbell’s death, the executives spent the first few days addressing funeral arrangements, and then they immediately shifted to calling key partners to let them know the company is in a strong financial position and that there wouldn’t be any disruption to business.
“The company will continue to do well,” said Wilborn. “It has a great foundation. We have great momentum going. There’s little doubt the company will continue to be successful.”
In reality, the future direction of BBC has been underway for more than five years.
Executives said they will continue to focus on the three-pronged road map Campbell established: developing the portfolio of owned, licensed and sourced brands.
To that end, in recent years the company added the Champion license to its portfolio, added more adult product to its mix — it took on Heelys, a struggling brand that many considered unfixable, and reignited that business in 2013 with fresh product and tighter distribution — and deepened its business with entertainment giants such as Disney.
“There was this beautiful, 63-year relationship between my father and Don, which was very yin and yang, and I think Bob saw that in me and Josue,” said Seth Campbell. “We wear different hats while having the same vision. I have such appreciation and trust in Josue — I’ve known him for so long, even before I was at BBC. We have an incredible relationship, where we learn from each other every day, and that will only continue.”
For Solano, the feeling is mutual.
“Seth is absolutely dynamic, smart, aggressive, well educated — and he has the vision much like his father,” he said. “Seth also doesn’t pull any punches. People always know where they stand with him. Sometimes when he is speaking, I grin because it’s almost like I am speaking to Bob.”
Executives said they do not plan to change the general focus of what made Bob Campbell successful for nearly half a century.
“I know we have big shoes to fill,” said Seth Campbell. “It’s an honor to try and fill his shoes. I want to do this.”
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