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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended May 21, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 24May00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Mormon Businessman To Be Honored By ADL
Greensboro NC News-Record 21May00 B2
By Mark Binker: Staff Writer, News & Record

HIGH POINT, NORTH CAROLINA -- Mormon businessman Ron Jones will be honored next month by the national interior furnishings and design division of the Anti-Defamation League. The organization will honor Jones, 57, for his leadership in making his employees aware of and resist hatred, bigotry and prejudice. The award will be presented at the division's dinner next month.

Jones, who is president of nationally-known matress manufacturer Sealy, best known for the Sealy Posturepedic Matress, is a native of Sedalia, Missouri and once attended a seminary in Kansas City, seeking to become a priest. However, he then converted to Mormonism. Jones told the News-Record that the Mormon Church "has no paid ministries so when I changed religions I had to change my vocational ambitions."

He then wen to work as an institutional food manager and eventually joined the office furniture manufacturer HON Co., where he worked his way up to become its President and Chief Operating Officer. In 1988, Jones joined Masco Home Furnishings, a group of 14 companies that he helped grow from $800 million in sales to more than $2 billion before he left in 1996 to join Sealy., the nation's largest mattress manufacturer with operations in 25 U.S. states and in Canada and Mexico.

The move to Sealy was a challenge for Jones, as he moved from the furniture industry to mattresses. "We essentially sell to the same customer base as furniture companies do. But it's very fast paced, highly competitive and you're changing the product constantly. There's a tremendous emphasis on advertising," he said.

Jones' peers are impressed with his leadership and the balance that he demonstrates with his commitment to the community, "Ron is a sincere, committed and responsive leader both in a business context and in the community," said Neil Goldberg, president and CEO of the New York-based furniture retailer Raymour &Flanigan. Goldberg also is chairman of the Anti-Defamation League's dinner.

Since he first reached management, Jones has acquired a reputation for being sensitive to community concerns. In 1993, while at Masco, he responded to the concerns of a group of Vietnam Veterans, who were concerned that Masco had illegally imported furniture from Vietnam. Jones averted a planned protest by the group by allowing the group to investigate on its own and convince themselves that Masco had imported the furniture in error. After the furniture was either destroyed or sent back, the group called off their protest, scheduled to occur during an important trade show.

Jones' service includes not only his service to his Church, but also service on the board of the High Point Regional Hospital and as a trustee of High Point University. His sensitivity can also be seen in Sealy's move to High Point, North Carolina from Cleveland, Ohio. Jones put off the issue until the lease on Sealy's corporate offices expired, two years after he joined the company. The decision then came down to a vote of the Board of Directors, in which a unanimous vote of the directors was required for the move. When the secret votes were counted, there was in fact one vote against the move -- Jones' vote. "In case someone else had voted to stay, I didn't want them to feel like they were the only one keeping the company in Cleveland," Jones said. When he discovered that his vote was the only vote against the move, he promptly switched his vote and in 1999 the company opened its new headquarters in Trinity, North Carolina.

Jones is glad that the move was accomplished without his having to pull rank on the others, something he tries hard to avoid, "Unfortunately, I think there is a part of human nature that makes it easier to build walls than bridges," he said. "If we're not careful, we build distinctions that separate us and make it hard to communicate."

It is exactly this attitude that lead the Anti-Defamation League to honor Jones.


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