updated 5/4/2004 12:43:43 PM ET 2004-05-04T16:43:43

David R. Whitwam will retire after 17 years as Whirlpool Corp.’s chairman and chief executive at the end of June, the maker of washing machines and other major appliances disclosed Tuesday.

Jeff M. Fettig, the Benton Harbor-based manufacturer’s president and chief operating officer, will take over as chairman and CEO and stay on as president on July 1.

“After 17 years as CEO of Whirlpool, I couldn’t be more confident and comfortable about my decision,” Whitwam said in a statement Tuesday. “I have always intended to retire early, and this is the right time.”

Whitwam, 62, was named Whirlpool chairman and CEO in 1987. He also served as company president from 1987-1992. He has served on the company’s board of directors since 1985.

Fettig, 47, was named president and COO and was elected to the board in 1999. He joined Whirlpool in 1981 and held a number of managerial positions in operations, sales, planning and product development before being promoted to vice president of marketing for the KitchenAid Appliance Group in 1989.

In 1990, he was named vice president of marketing for the Philips Whirlpool Appliance Group of Whirlpool Europe BV, the company’s European subsidiary.

In 1992, Fettig was named vice president, group marketing and sales, North American Appliance Group. In 1994 Fettig was named an executive vice president of Whirlpool and president, Whirlpool Europe and Asia.

Fueled by higher sales, Whirlpool on April 21 announced first-quarter earnings rose nearly 11 percent to $101 million, or $1.43 a share, up from $91 million, or $1.32 a share, a year earlier.

That beat the consensus forecast by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call by 5 cents a share.

Sales were up 10.7 percent to $3.01 billion from $2.72 billion a year earlier. Excluding currency translations, sales increased about 5 percent, Whirlpool said.

Whirlpool is the one of world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of major home appliances, with annual sales of more than $12 billion, 68,000 employees, and nearly 50 manufacturing and technology research centers. The company markets Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Brastemp, Bauknecht, Consul and other major brand names to consumers in more than 170 countries.

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