Equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. on Oct. 17 announced that CEO and Chairman Doug Oberhelman will retire from the company in March. But the departing chief remains optimistic, despite the Peoria, Ill.-based firm’s historic slump.
Succeeding Oberhelman on Jan. 1 as CEO will be 35-year corporate veteran Jim Umpleby, Caterpillar group president for energy and transportation, the company said. It also named outside board member Dave Calhoun as non-executive chairman, the first time since 1990 that the CEO and chairman titles were not held by the same person. Oberhelman has been with the firm for 41 years and was appointed to his current roles in 2010.
The change comes as Caterpillar copes with a global sales falloff, driven by a weak mining sector and slow growth in construction. In quarterly results reported on Oct. 25, the firm beat analysts’ predictions on its earnings of 85¢ per share but not on revenue of $9.16 billion, which was less than the $9.86 billion forecasted.
Caterpillar recorded its highest-ever sales and revenue in 2012 under Oberhelman, but equipment demand has cooled in recent years. Earlier this year, Caterpillar said that, since 2015, it has reduced its workforce by 13,900 employees, to about 100,000 employees total, with more corporate reductions and reorganizations expected.
In a press statement, Oberhelman said that, over the past four years, Caterpillar faced “unprecedented global economic conditions that have significantly impacted the industries served by our customers.” Despite the challenges the company has confronted, Oberhelman said, “I am confident that Caterpillar is stronger than ever, with product quality, power, technology and innovation that is the envy of our competitors. The future is bright.”