Red Cross appoints new CEO

April 8, 2008       Mark Hrywna      

Almost five months after a sex scandal drove out its previous leader, the American Red Cross has appointed its tenth permanent or interim CEO in the past 12 years.

Veteran marketing executive Gail J. McGovern, who has taught at Harvard Business School for the past six years, will assume the post on June 23. McGovern, 56, will earn an annual salary of $500,000, in addition to a $65,000 signing bonus. She was among 170 people considered and 20 who were interviewed.

Mary Elcano, the interim CEO since Mark Everson resigned in November, will return to her post as general counsel and corporate secretary. He departed just six months into his tenure after it came to light that he had an affair with a chapter executive in Mississippi.

After joining the Harvard faculty in 2002, McGovern last year was appointed to the chaired position of the MBA Class of 1996 Professor of Management and Practice and teaches in the MBA and executive programs. She holds a bachelor of arts in quantitative sciences from The Johns Hopkins University and an MBA from Columbia University.

McGovern previously worked at Fidelity Investments for three years after 24 years at AT&T. While at Fidelity, McGovern oversaw all retail distribution channels in 85 locations before becoming president of Fidelity Personal Investments, where she was responsible for 4.5 million customers, $500 billion in assets and 10,000 employees.

McGovern started at AT&T in 1974 as a computer programmer and eventually rose to executive vice president of the consumer markets division, before leaving in 1998. As vice president, she was responsible for residential long distance and Internet services, which includes 75 million customers, $26 billion in revenue and 40,000 employees. Twice, Fortune magazine recognized her as one of the most powerful and influential women in corporate America.

“Gail McGovern brings outstanding leadership skills from the private sector, coupled with a deep commitment to volunteerism,” said Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chairman of the board of the Red Cross. “With a passion for our noble mission and the people we serve, Gail will ensure excellence in all areas of Red Cross service.”

“It is an honor to be asked to lead the American Red Cross, the helping hand to so many people in times of disaster and crisis,” said McGovern. “I am humbled and inspired by this incredible humanitarian network of thousands of volunteers, workers and supporters serving their neighbors in communities across our nation and world. I look forward to joining them and am committed to the long-term growth and success of the Red Cross and its life-saving mission.”

H. Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance in Arlington, Va., offered his congratulations to the Red Cross “for acquiring the services and talents of an individual with outstanding leadership credentials. We can all be hopeful now that this event severs the string of leadership challenges that the organization has had over the last seven years.

“Certainly a leader with these credentials will bolster our hope that the Red Cross will become the organization that Americans need and want it to be,” he said.

McGovern was a member of the Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Campaign Executive Committee at Johns Hopkins during a seven-year, $2-billion campaign that exceeded its goal two years ahead of schedule and eventually raised $3.2 billion. She also has been active in events for Children’s Hospital Boston, Dana Farber and United Way of Boston.

McGovern serves on two for-profit boards, the Hartford Financial Group and DTE Energy.

Check back at www.nptimes.com later this afternoon for an update on this developing story.

Staff writer Michele Donohue contributed to this report