Ajita Rajendra to retire as A.O. Smith executive chairman

Ajita Rajendra plans to retire from his role as executive chairman of Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp. on May 1, the company announced Wednesday.

Rajendra, 68, has been an A.O. Smith director since 2011 and will remain on the company’s board. Kevin Wheeler, president and chief executive officer of A.O. Smith, has been elected chairman in addition to his current roles.

William Greubel, lead director for A.O. Smith, said Rajendra “has been an inspiring and visionary leader since the moment he joined the company in 2005.”

Rajendra joined A.O. Smith in 2005 as president of A.O. Smith Water Products Co. He was named executive vice president in 2006 and president and chief operating officer in 2011. He became CEO in 2013 and was named chairman in 2014. He transitioned to the executive chairman role in 2018, with Wheeler taking over as CEO.

Greubel noted A.O. Smith went from $1.9 billion to $3 billion in sales during Rajendra’s time as CEO and its earnings had a 22.3% compound annual growth rate.

“Under his watch, A.O. Smith acquired two water treatment companies in North America and built a stronger presence in China, India and Vietnam, further building and cementing A.O. Smith’s position as a global leader in water technology,” Greubel said.

He added the board has “the utmost confidence” in Wheeler as A.O. Smith’s tenth chairman and CEO.

“He and Ajita have worked together 15 years in shaping the company’s strategy. Like Ajita, Kevin has an obsessive focus on caring for our customers and rewarding our shareholders,” Greubel said.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.