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Celotex says its CEO, president has resigned

After leading Celotex Corp., one of the bay area's largest companies, out of bankruptcy earlier this year, Dennis M. Ross, president and chief executive, will have no part in its future.

Celotex, a privately held building materials manufacturer, said Thursday that Ross, 55, has resigned. The company gave no explanation for his sudden departure, and Ross could not be reached for comment.

The company wasted no time finding his replacement. John P. Borreca, who joined Celotex in 1975 directly from the University of South Florida, was promoted from chief financial officer to the position.

Borreca, in a statement, credited Ross for leading the company to record sales and profits the past two years while dealing with the asbestos-related claims that forced the company into bankruptcy in 1990. The case, which eventually totaled $17-billion in asbestos-related claims from 350,000 people, was one of the biggest bankruptcy cases ever.

In the bankruptcy settlement that went into effect at the end of May, Celotex agreed to be taken over by a trust that would assume all of the company's asbestos-related liabilities. The unique arrangement gave management more flexibility to operate.

In fact, Ross, who became CEO in 1995, was gung-ho about the company's future. He said the company was ready to grow by both acquisition and internal expansion. Celotex had $700-million in sales last year from the distribution of roofing shingles, insulation and coatings and other products manufactured at 26 plants nationwide.

Celotex, which was part of Tampa-based Walter Industries until 1988, has 2,900 employees, including 300 in Tampa Bay. In addition to its headquarters in Tampa, Celotex owns the Center for Applied Engineering, a research and development lab in St. Petersburg.

Borreca indicated that the company would not change its direction under his leadership. "The aggressive initiatives implemented by our management team the last two years will continue with the full support of our shareholder and board of directors," he said.

Borreca has steadily moved up the ladder at Celotex after earning an accounting degree from USF. He has worked at company plants in Texarkana, Ark., and Sayreville, N.J. He became chief financial officer in October 1990. The company has not found a replacement for him.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.