Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman has elected to retire, effective March 31, 2017. Oberhelman led the company to its highest sales and revenue peak in its 91-year history in 2012, and, since that time, has managed the company through what it said was an “unprecedented downturn.” Jim Umpleby, currently a Cat Group President with responsibility for energy and transportation, will replace Oberhelman as CEO.
For the first time in 25 years, Cat is splitting roles of chief executive and chairman. Dave Calhoun, a current Cat board member, will assume the role of nonexecutive chairman of the board. Calhoun is senior managing director and head of private equity portfolio operations for the Blackstone Group. The move is seen as an effort to satisfy requests for more oversight of the CEO.
During his tenure, Oberhelman invested heavily in plants and equipment worldwide, especially in the mining sector. The $8.8 billion acquisition of Bucyrus in 2011 was a significant transaction for the mining business. At Cat’s MINExpo press conference in Las Vegas during September, Oberhelman defended those decisions. “Everybody was surprised by the size of the downturn and the length of it,” Oberhelman said. “I firmly believe we couldn’t have forecast that at the time.” Caterpillar recently placed it room-and-pillar division up for sale.