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Tagged: Robert B. Willumstad School of Business, Accounting, Finance, and Economics, Garden City

James M. Demitrieus ’70

Executives and Leaders


 

Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.

President of Sherwood, a specialty manufacturing division of Harsco

Favorite Class: Business Law

Hobbies: Golf, cooking, and all things Italian

On the value of the Adelphi experience: College should be a time of ideology and expansion.

Turnaround CEO

“The key to being successful in accounting is not about being a great accountant. It’s about being a good business person with an accounting background.” 

James Demitrieus has brought his detail-oriented, common-sense perspective to a litany of leading global companies. As a young accountant, he was recruited from Arthur Andersen to join ITT in the late 1970s. He worked in the office of the chief financial officer while supporting Harold Geneen, the well-known chairman and industry pioneer.

He later explored the oil and gas industries while working for Freeport McMoRan’s natural resources business. His exposure to the investment banking community with Freeport’s capital pursuits, brought him to Drexel Burnham Lambert in the late 1980s.

Mr. Demitrieus helped Drexel Burnham Lambert navigate a challenging period. He led the effort to restore approximately $1 billion of equity in a merchant banking portfolio, and went on to direct Drexel’s major commodity trading operations.

The early 1990s took Mr. Demitrieus to Asia, where he became the first non-Korean CEO of a major chaebol, (Korean private conglomerate) and he led the restructuring of SK Group. As chief executive of American and European Operations, he helped the $40 billion global conglomerate to advance its position in petrochemical refinement and cellular telecommunications.

In the latter half of the same decade, Mr. Demitrieus joined the dot-com movement and helped guide the initial public offering of Ixnet/IPC in 1999. His fast-moving career then shifted into top speed. He relocated to Rochester, New York to become COO of Frontier Communications. One year later, he joined the board of Toronto-based Aluma Systems, a major industrial services engineering and equipment firm. Within six months, he was elected CEO and began a major recapitalization. He then guided the sale of the company in the middle of 2005.

His time at Adelphi began when he was recruited to join its lacrosse team after setting several scoring records in his freshman year at SUNY Cortland. He transferred to Adelphi in 1967 and pursued an accounting major. Always determined to make the most of his time, he balanced training and lacrosse practice with his studies, and found time for numerous part-time jobs, including opening a candy store before class, delivering pizza from the Centurion, tending bar at the Good Knight Pub, and loading trucks for UPS.

He spent his three college summers working on Wall Street. Mr. Demitrieus remembers throwing ticker tape to celebrate the Apollo 11 crew’s first walk on the moon, a champagne toast when the NYSE traded its first $20 million share day, and working late one Friday night, only to find out that he missed the concert in Woodstock that everyone else attended.

Years later, Mr. Demitrieus still enjoys the fast pace of the market, but has gained a broader perspective on his career. He lives in Scarsdale, New York with his wife Lynn, M.A. ’72. When not cooking in their summer home in Southampton or traveling throughout Italy, you can find him on the golf course or cheering for the Yankees.

His advice for Adelphi students: “Never underestimate the huge advantage a summer job can give you as you build your career.”