David Kohler to succeed his father as CEO in June

David Kohler will succeed his father, Herbert Kohler Jr., as the next chief executive officer of Kohler Co.

At its annual meeting on April 29, the Kohler Co. board of directors elected Herbert Kohler to the new role of executive chairman, effective June 1. He will continue to chair the board, lead its executive committee, oversee shareholder communications, manage corporate mergers and acquisitions and the Hospitality & Real Estate Group.

David Kohler, 48, who has been serving as president and chief operating officer since 2009, was elected to be president and CEO today. He will be the fourth generation of the family to lead the company. His duties will expand to include responsibility for the company’s corporate staff and three of its business groups.

Herbert Kohler said, “I am confident that after 24 years with the company and seven years as president and COO, David is prepared to take on the chief executive role and to grow Kohler Co.”

David Kohler has a track record of increasingly progressive leadership positions at Kohler Co. and experience with other companies. He will advance the company’s three-plank sustainability platform: reducing its environmental footprint, developing more plumbing product options that enable consumers to conserve water in their homes, and supporting important environmental awareness and education causes.

“Business success doesn’t matter much if we can’t say we left the world a better place than we found it,” David Kohler said. “We are fortunate to have a solid foundation in place. Our job is to explore and to discover, and each day try to break new ground.”

David Kohler started at the company by working in every manufacturing division on the front lines during and after graduating from Duke University. He left Kohler to earn his MBA from the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. After Kellogg, Kohler worked at Dayton Hudson Corporation and rejoined Kohler as director of  fixtures marketing in 1993.

Herbert Kohler, 76, has served as CEO since 1972, after working as a laborer or technician in every division of the company as a teen, beginning full-time in 1965, after graduating from Yale with a bachelor’s degree in industrial administration. During his 43-year span as CEO, he built the company into a global organization focused on products and services leading to a better way of living.

Today, the company has 32,000 employees, has a brick-and-mortar presence on six continents, and is approaching $6 billion in annual revenue from $133 million in 1971. The privately held company has completed 48 acquisitions since 1982.

He developed  a workers’ dormitory into a five-star, five-diamond resort hotel which in turn led to the formation of the company’s fourth business Group – Hospitality & Real Estate – comprised of two of the world’s highest rated golf resort destinations in Kohler, Wisconsin, and St Andrews, Scotland. The Kohler courses have hosted five Major golf championships to date, plus the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in August this year and the Ryder Cup in 2020. Kohler’s Old Course Hotel will also host The Open at St Andrews in July this year.

David Kohler discussed his father’s foray into the game of golf at a BizTimes reception in Milwaukee on April 28. Kohler’s Whistling Straits golf course will host the PGA Championship for the third time Aug. 10-16. PGA CEO Peter Bevacqua said the event is likely to return to Whistling Straits for a fourth time in the near future.

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