updated 4/5/2004 10:59:56 AM ET 2004-04-05T14:59:56

Lowe’s Companies said Monday that chairman and chief executive Robert L. Tillman will retire in January and will be succeeded by president Robert A. Niblock.

Niblock, 41, who has been president just over one year, immediately becomes chairman and CEO-elect of the nation’s second-largest home improvement retailer, behind Home Depot, Lowe’s said in a statement.

The decision “provides for a smooth transition to the next generation of management,” Lowe’s said.

“Robert Niblock is an excellent leader and my natural successor at Lowe’s,” Tillman said. “With Lowe’s strategic course firmly in place and a deep and talented management team committed to ensuring Lowe’s future success, I am convinced that now is the ideal time for me to begin the process of handing the reins of the company over to Robert.”

Lowe’s, based in Mooresville, had sales of $30.8 billion in fiscal 2003. The company has 950 home improvement stores in 45 states.

Niblock was appointed president of Lowe’s on March 1, 2003. He joined the company in 1993 and served as executive vice president and chief financial officer before becoming president.

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