LAKE FOREST, IL: Sears Holdings’ former comms chief Chris Brathwaite has joined Tenneco as VP of global comms.
Brathwaite officially starts in his role at the ride performance and clean air company on October 28. He will report to CEO Brian Kessler and oversee a team of six.
The last person who held this role was Jane Ostrander. She retired from Tenneco on July 1, according to an automated voicemail message. She served at the company for 18 years, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Ostrander was not immediately available for comment.
Most recently, Brathwaite was VP of media relations and corporate comms at Sears Holdings. He explained that after recruiter Heyman Associates reached out to him about the job at Tenneco, he handed in his two-week notice on September 20, ahead of Sears’ Chapter 11 filing.
Brathwaite’s last day was supposed to be October 5, but he stayed on for another week while working remotely to support the company at the request of Peter Boutros, president of Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard, and chief brand officer of Sears and Kmart.
Brathwaite said his decision to move on was "in no way tied to [Sears Holdings’] fortunes."
"A colleague told me you never run from something, you run to something," Brathwaite said. "I still have an affinity for Sears. I’m still hopeful and optimistic that company will emerge from Chapter 11 and continue to do what it’s done for 125 years."
Earlier this year, Tenneco acquired Federal-Mogul from Icahn Enterprises for $5.4 billion. As part of the sale, Tenneco expanded its board of directors from 10 to 11, adding Keith Cozza, president and CEO of Icahn, as a member.
After Tenneco integrates Federal-Mogul, it will split into two companies. One yet-to-be-named company, led by Kessler, will focus on the aftermarket and ride performance side of the business, Brathwaite said.
Post-spinoff, Brathwaite will oversee comms for this business. The aftermarket and ride performance business is also searching for its first-ever CMO, Brathwaite said.
The other spinoff company will retain the Tenneco brand and specialize in powertrain technology. It will be led by CEO Roger Wood. Brathwaite said he was unsure if he’ll oversee comms for this group in the interim.
This spin-off is expected to be completed in late 2019.
Helping guide Tenneco through this process was one of the things that attracted Brathwaite to the role.
"I can’t wait to get started," he said.
Prior to heading comms at Sears Holdings, Brathwaite was divisional VP of corporate PR and director of corporate PR at the company. Earlier in his career, he was manager of media relations at United Airlines and public affairs specialist at State Farm Insurance.
Sears Holdings officially filed for Chapter 11 on Monday. As part of that process, Sears is closing 142 Sears and Kmart stores in addition to the 46 closures announced in August. Sears employs less than 90,000 people.
Eddie Lampert stepped down as CEO of Sears Holdings. He remains chairman.