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Wharton EMBA Alumni Use Education to Help Orchestrate ITT Breakup

February 23, 2011

Before starting Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program in Philadelphia in 1995, Aris Chicles was on a general management track in industrial marketing at Owens Corning. However, during the program, he became very interested in corporate strategy and M&A and was able to transition into that area within his company. Subsequently, he worked in a similar role at American Standard Companies before joining ITT in 2006 as senior vice president of strategy and corporate development.

Frank Jimenez had a different path to both Wharton and ITT. Starting out as an attorney in Miami, he later worked for Governor Jeb Bush of Florida before moving to Washington, D.C. where he worked as chief of staff to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. By the time he started Wharton’s EMBA program in 2003, he was one of seven deputy general counsels for the U.S. Department of Defense. Later, he became general counsel of the U.S. Department of the Navy, serving through the first 100 days of President Obama’s administration. In 2009, he transitioned into the corporate sector, joining ITT as vice president and general counsel.

Despite their different backgrounds, Chicles and Jimenez recently teamed up, using their Wharton MBA educations to help develop and drive the separation of ITT into several new companies. The firm, which owns diversified businesses ranging from electronic countermeasures and sophisticated surveillance systems to water treatment systems and highly-engineered industrial products, plans to divide itself into three publicly traded companies by the end of the year.

“That process is confidential and you can’t bring in a lot of people when you’re going through it so we needed to rely on our experience, education, and ability to do the work. We used the finance insights we learned from Prof. John Percival’s class, legal acumen from Prof. Bill Tyson’s course, deft economic insights from Prof. David Crawford’s class, and knowledge we gained from many other Wharton faculty as we guided this process,” says Chicles.

He notes, “When you face a decision like this that is transformational for your company, it forces you to really think about the fundamentals. What businesses are you in? What markets are you in? The whole breadth of courses at Wharton supported that in addition to having learned how to bring it all together to see the interrelatedness of functions like strategy, finance, and accounting.”

Jimenez agrees, “As a lawyer, it was a lot easier for me to give advice having immersed myself at Wharton in subjects like finance, accounting, strategy, and economics.”

He adds, “I wasn’t sponsored at Wharton and am still paying off my loans, but I’d attend all over again in a heartbeat. My education made me a better rounded government official and made transitioning into the corporate world a lot easier. I wasn’t planning to change sectors when I began at Wharton, but half-way through I realized that being a corporate general counsel would combine the best of both worlds: business and law. Wharton opened a new world of possibilities and definitely provided a strong foundation for me in ITT’s recent events.”

For more information on ITT’s announcement: http://www.transformationitt.com/

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