Caterpillar Inc., the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, said Thursday that Douglas Oberhelman will become the company's CEO starting in July of next year.
The Peoria, Ill.-based company said Oberhelman, 56, will succeed current Chief Executive Jim Owens on July 1. Owens will stay on as chairman until he retires Oct. 31 under a mandatory retirement policy.
Owens, 63, informed the company in 2008 he was planning to retire in the fall of 2010 and has worked with its board of directors over the past year to develop a succession plan. He became the company's top executive in 2004.
Oberhelman, a 34-year Caterpillar veteran, currently is the company's group president, responsible for its engine and gas turbine businesses, human services, rail services and remanufacturing divisions. Earlier, he was its chief financial officer.
W. Frank Blount, presiding director and chairman of the Caterpillar board's governance committee, credited Owens with leading the company during "its most significant period of growth," as well as the global recession.
Caterpillar has expanded dramatically in recent years, driven by a building boom in developing countries and soaring commodity prices, but the world economic slowdown dealt the company a severe blow.
The collapse of real estate markets, tightening credit markets and tumbling prices for commodities such as copper sapped demand for Caterpillar's yellow-and-black bulldozers, excavators and other machines.
In response, Caterpillar announced plans to cut more than 22,000 jobs — about 19 percent of its work force — reduce costs and drastically scale back production.
On Tuesday, the company reported a 53 percent decline in its third-quarter profit, but Owens said the company saw encouraging signs an economic recovery may be under way. He cautioned, however, that the world economy still faces significant challenges and that 2010 will be difficult.