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The Executive Council – Precursor to AICC Training and CEO Groups

By Mitch Klingher

March 20, 2024

In 1993, when AICC was a young 19-year-old organization and Dick Troll was still the head honcho, his No. 2, a young whippersnapper named Steve Young, came up with the idea for the Executive Council. The idea was to bring together a group of CEOs and create a forum where they could share ideas and best practices and help teach them some of the basics of finance and marketing. The original group included Joe Palmeri, Roy Allen, Jay Wertheimer, Brian Buckley, Tom Skinner, Mike Sime, Jim Davis, Craig Hoyt, Lee Shilito, and many other prominent boxmakers and future AICC officers and chairmen. It was the first training of any kind AICC offered, and it was one of the most interesting experiences of my professional life. The marketing side of it never really gained much traction, but the exchange of ideas and the financial discussion turned out to be enlightening and enduring.

Here I was, a 34-year-old newbie to the world of converters, helping to teach a bunch of successful business people how to make sense out of their financial statements. The topics that my late partner, Mort Ackerman, and I covered included:

  • Understanding liquidity, leverage, and how bankers look at evaluating credit
  • Mergers and acquisitions
    • Concept of a strategic buyer, a synergistic buyer, and an investment buyer
    • Various methodologies for valuing a target
    • Ways to finance a deal
  •  Business succession planning
  • Family versus nonfamily versus sale
  •  Different financial reporting formats
    • Traditional
    • Estimating system based
  • Dealing with banks and how to clean up your financial statements for presentation
  • Various methods for calculating contribution and return on sale
  • Special tax concepts
    • Sales and use tax issues
    • Interstate commerce issues
    • S corp. versus C corp. versus partnership taxation
    • How the gift and estate taxes work
  •  Special accounting issues
    • Sale of waste
    • Sale of dies
    • Nonmanufactured sales

It was a fairly comprehensive discussion of all things financial, with a business-
oriented spin. I was amazed at how freely the participants shared so many intimate details of their lives and organizations. It was as if they had a need to share things with a group of their peers. To be fair, many of them knew each other from AICC meetings and conventions and from serving on the board together, but the amount of information shared freely was compelling.

If the discussions during the meeting were compelling, the discussions on the breaks and in the evening were amazing to this 34-year-old certified public accountant, who was more of a traditional accounting and tax guy. The personal stories and the discussions of all things paper and AICC started me on a 35-year journey in the corrugated conversion business. They gave me a historical perspective as well as a totally unabashed view of the current state of papermaking and paper conversion. When I first merged my accounting practice in with Ackerman in 1992 and listened to him extol the virtues of the box business, I was seriously reconsidering my choices. Spending my career working with a bunch of boxmakers didn’t fit with my vision of what I wanted to do with my professional life. But after two days of “advanced boxmaking” at the Executive Council, I was captivated by all of the different types of conversion going on and the variety of very interesting people who were doing it.

The success of this program led to Ackerman and me developing the school for financial managers and controllers, where we had some of the top financial people in the industry, along with some less experienced controllers talking pretty freely about the issues they encounter in their jobs. Once again, the discussion was varied and interesting, and listening to a bunch of chief financial officers and controllers talking about their experiences within the framework of a high-end financial discussion was absolutely amazing. From that course, I went on to develop a few financial courses for nonfinancial people and started writing articles for various trade publications.

A few years later, along with many of the participants of the Executive Council, the Ackerman Roundtable was born. The roundtable was the original CEO group, and because no one in the group directly competed with each other and because the same people got together a few times a year, the meetings became even more interesting than the Executive Council was. The participants would freely share their financial and operational data as well as their best practices in an effort to help each other be more successful.

As always, Young was in the background, watching, listening, and trying to figure out how to improve AICC. If the Executive Council and the school for financial managers were successful, what other areas of training and education could AICC sponsor? If the roundtable was a success, what other peer groups could AICC facilitate? AICC was founded on a paper shortage that threatened the livelihoods of the independent converters, but that was old news. There was plenty of paper around by the mid-1990s. Young was charged with finding ways to make the organization relevant without the compelling issue of finding paper for the members. And boy did he succeed. AICC has fostered the formation of numerous peer groups as well as a terrific array of educational offerings, and that legacy continues today.

So, happy 50th anniversary, AICC. You continue to be a terrific resource for your members and, despite all of the consolidation we have seen in the past 30 years, do a wonderful job of advocating for your members. I was a lucky guy when I got exposed to the “boring” box business in 1992 and even luckier when I met a guy named Steve Young. My life has been enriched greatly by those two occurrences, and I hope I have been able to give something back.

But without Young’s vision and tireless efforts, I don’t think it would have turned out quite as well. So, thank you to both Steve Young and AICC. Keep up the good work!

Mitch Klingher is owner of Klingher Nadler LLP. He can be reached at 201-731-3025 or