Caterpillar CEO Oberhelman retiring March 31

Jim Umpleby to become CEO in 2017

Caterpillar Inc. chairman and chief executive officer Doug Oberhelman will retire from the company March 31, the Illinois-based mining equipment manufacturer announced Monday.

Oberhelman delivers remarks at an National Association of Manufacturers event. Photo by David Bohrer/NAM.
Oberhelman delivers remarks at an National Association of Manufacturers event. Photo by David Bohrer/NAM.

Jim Umpleby, currently group president with responsibility for energy and transportation, will succeed Oberhelman as CEO, effective Jan. 1.

Oberhelman has been with the company for 41 years and was named chairman and CEO in 2010. Caterpillar recorded the highest revenues in its history in 2012 at nearly $66 billion, but sales have fallen over the past few years, to $47 billion in 2015.

“During the last four years, Caterpillar 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,” Oberhelman said. “Faced with these challenges, our employees have responded like champions. We have improved our market position and grown our field population. Our product quality is at historically high levels, and I believe we are leading the industry in digital capabilities.”

Among the company’s moves during Oberhelman’s tenure was the 2011 acquisition of Milwaukee-based mining equipment maker Bucyrus International Inc. for $8.8 billion, including debt.

The mining industry has faced a number of headwinds in recent years. While Milwaukee was to be the headquarters for Caterpillar’s global mining operations when the deal was announced, the company has instead steadily reduced its workforce in the area and plans to shift many engineering jobs to Arizona. 

In announcing Oberhelman’s retirement, Caterpillar touted improved product quality, an improved market positions for machines, increased quarterly dividend, a strong balance sheet, improved safety record and 7,300 patents granted worldwide.

“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,” Oberhelman said.

He will stay on as executive chairman until March 31.

Dave Calhoun, a current member of the board and head of private equity portfolio operations at The Blackstone Group L.P., will become non-executive chairman once Oberhelman retires.

Jay Timmons, National Association of Manufacturers president and chief executive officer, praised Oberhelman as a tireless champion for manufacturers in changing times.

“What has set Doug apart as a modern business statesman is how fully he’s embraced this charge—and how much he’s devoted his time, talent and energy to set an example for many others,” Timmons said.

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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.

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