NEW YORK — More than four years since naming John Bakane president and chief executive officer of Cone Mills Corp., the directors of the company on Tuesday elected him chairman. He succeeds Dewey Trogdon, who has held the post since 1981.

Reached for comment late Tuesday, Bakane said, "I feel good about the company. I feel good about the support of the board."

However, he said, given the dire state of the U.S. textile market, he had no plans for celebration.

"At the end of the day, we’ve got a company that’s got to be the survivor in the textile business," he said. "That’s what it’s all about."

When Bakane was handed the reins in November 1998, Cone had been in the red for four years and the aftershocks of the Asian economic meltdown of 1997 were just starting to hit the domestic textile industry. During Bakane’s tenure, the company closed unprofitable operations and cut some 3,000 jobs, but avoided bankruptcy, which claimed many of its major competitors.

Last year, Cone swung back into the black, posting a $7.2 million net profit on $445.6 million in sales. That marked the company’s first profitable year since 1994.

Bakane said he doesn’t plan any major shifts for the firm in his new role.

"I have worked for Dewey Trogdon for the last 20 years and learned basically everything I know about business from him," he said.

He recalled how Trogdon, now 73, in the early Eighties fought off a hostile takeover attempt by taking the company private. "It takes a special guy to orchestrate that," he said.

Cone returned to the New York Stock Exchange in 1992, where it remains listed today. Trogdon will remain on Cone’s board until he reaches mandatory retirement age in 2004. In a related move, Cone’s board elected Charles M. Reid lead director.

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