Her sudden and unexplained departure thins Minnesota's already sparse ranks of female chief executives. Board member Lee Kennedy is interim CEO.
Kathryn Marinello, one of Minnesota's most prominent female business executives, has stepped down as chairman and chief executive of Ceridian Corp. after three years at the helm of the Bloomington-based business services company.
Ceridian said in a prepared statement that Marinello, 53, will be replaced on an interim basis by Lee Kennedy, 59, a current member of the company's board of directors and vice chairman of Fidelity National Information Services Inc., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based technology service provider to the banking industry.
A spokesman for Ceridian declined to give a reason for Marinello's departure, or to comment on whether it was voluntary. Instead, he stuck with a prepared statement: "The board met with Kathy last week and they mutually agreed that change was the best path for our future success and growth."
The spokesman said Marinello's departure was not related to Ceridian's financial performance.
Marinello, whose last day at Ceridian was Friday, did not return telephone calls to her home.
In 2008, Marinello received $3.1 million in total compensation, including a salary of $814,346 and $1.4 million in stock option awards.
Marinello's departure is seen as particularly significant because she was among just a handful of women executives who held the top spot at a major corporation in Minnesota. Only six of this state's top 100 public companies have women CEOs, and women hold only 15 percent of the executive officer positions among these 100 companies, according to an annual study by two professors at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
Ceridian was taken private in 2007 and is not required to release regular financial statements. However, as of 2008, it had revenue of $1.56 billion -- which would rank it among the state's 30 largest public companies and the largest led by a woman. The company has more than 8,000 employees, primarily in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, including 800 at its corporate headquarters in Bloomington.
"Losing a woman in that position means we've lost another female's voice in shaping boards and executive offices in the state of Minnesota," said Joann Bangs, an assistant economics professor and co-author of the study. "We have so few female executives [in Minnesota] that it's a big deal."
Marinello was the only woman among Ceridian's top executive ranks. The company's website lists 17 "executive leaders," all of whom are men.
Ceridian touted Marinello's deep executive experience when the firm hired her as CEO in October 2006. Her résumé included jobs as president and CEO of General Electric's consumer financial services group and president of U.S. Bank's card services subsidiary. In addition, she has served as a board member of General Motors since 2007; and recently she survived a shakeup of the automaker's board after losses sent it into bankruptcy.
As CEO of Ceridian, Marinello resisted efforts by activist hedge fund manager William Ackman to replace the firm's entire board. Ackman, who runs the New York firm Pershing Square Capital Management, disagreed with the company's strategic direction and pushed the firm to spin off Comdata, a unit that manages gift cards for companies.
Ceridian ultimately sold itself to private equity giant Thomas H. Lee Partners of New York and Fidelity National Financial Inc., a specialty insurance company, for $5.3 billion.
Ceridian said it expects to hire a permanent replacement for Marinello in six to nine months.