Peoria, Ill.-based equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. announced on Oct. 17 that CEO and Chairman Doug Oberhelman will retire from the company in March 2017. He has been with the firm for 41 years, and was appointed to his current roles in 2010.
Succeeding him on Jan. 1 as CEO will be 35-year corporate veteran Jim Umpleby, Caterpillar group president for energy and transportation, the company said. In addition, the firm has named a board member as non-executive chairman, the first time since 1990 that the CEO and chairman titles were not held by the same person.
The change comes during a historic slump in sales for the company, driven by a weak mining sector and slow growth in construction. Caterpillar recorded its highest-ever sales and revenue figures in 2012 under Oberhelman, but demand for its equipment has cooled off in recent years. Earlier this year Caterpillar said that it had reduced its workforce by 13,900 employees since 2015, to about 100,000 employees total, with more reductions and reorganizations expected.
In a press statement from Caterpillar announcing the change in leadership, Oberhelman said that over the last four years the company has faced “unprecedented global economic conditions that have significantly impacted the industries served by our customers, as those industries and economic growth in many regions around the world have slowed or severely contracted.”
Despite the challenges the company has faced, Oberhelman offered an optimistic view for Caterpillar's future. "I am confident that Caterpillar is stronger than ever, with product quality, power, technology and innovation that is the envy of our competitors. Add to that lean and agile manufacturing capabilities and an unrivaled global distribution channel. The future is bright."
Incoming CEO Umpleby has served as a group president since 2013. The role of non-executive board chairman will be filled by board member Dave Calhoun, who is also senior managing director at The Blackstone Group L.P.
"I have been privileged to work with Caterpillar employees and dealers in supporting our customers as they develop the world’s infrastructure and improve standards of living and quality of life," Umpleby said in a press statement. "I look forward to leading our dedicated team as we build upon the accomplishments of those that have come before us.”