3M names Thulin to replace retiring Buckley as CEO

Associated Press SHARE

By SAMANTHA BOMKAMP, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The maker of Post-Its and Scotch Tape has named a new chief executive.

With his employment contract set to expire this month, 3M Co. announced Wednesday that CEO George Buckley will retire on June 1. The company named chief operating officer Inge Thulin to replace him, effective Feb. 24. Thulin will also join 3M's board.

During Buckley's six years as CEO, 3M's sales rose by 40 percent. Thulin was a big part of that. Before he became COO last May, he was the head of international operations and the company credits him with building its international sales to nearly $20 billion annually. 3M's revenue totaled $29.61 billion last year.

Wall Street has been waiting for the Maplewood, Minn., company to name a new CEO. As Buckley approached 3M's mandatory retirement age of 65, analysts clamored for information about a succession plan. Published reports suggested that some 3M board members wanted the popular CEO to stay on despite the company's age cap.

Buckley, too, did not seem eager to leave.

"Unless I drop dead first I'm going to work here as long as the board wants me to work here," he said last year. "I'm not anxious to go fishing just yet."

In an interview with The Associated Press, incoming CEO Thulin said he has the backing of 3M directors.

"While people looked in from the outside, George and I have been on the inside, (preparing for) a very orderly transition," he said. "There's no doubt for me in terms of having full support from the board."

The transition appears to have the support of Wall Street, as well.

In a note to clients, Morningstar analyst Adam Fleck said he thinks investors will applaud the selection of a company insider for its top spot because it suggests 3M is, in large part, planning to continue business as usual. Fleck thinks that Thulin's international experience can only help the company grow more overseas.

Buckley will remain chairman until the company's annual shareholder meeting in May, when Thulin is expected to be elected to that post.

Besides its trademark Post-Its and Scotch Tape, 3M also makes a slew of products ranging from stethoscopes to films for LCD televisions.

Buckley, a straight-shooting Englishman, came to the company in 2005 from boat maker Brunswick Corp. At the time, some observers questioned the choice of an outsider from a much smaller company for 3M CEO, although Buckley had proven himself in the boat industry.

When he joined Brunswick in 2000, he dramatically expanded the 160-year-old company's market presence. He snatched up boat and engine brands including Lund, Sea Pro and some suppliers. He also moved to create a used-boat business.

Buckley was trained as an electrical engineer. He called 3M an "engineer's heaven" and an "ethical upstanding super-engineering machine." Under him, 3M made a number of acquisitions, including those that boosted its technology offerings in recent years. In August 2010, 3M paid nearly $1 billion for Cogent Inc., which develops systems for reading finger and palm prints, as well as iris and face-recognition systems. That month 3M also agreed to pay $230 million for an Israeli company that makes tracking devices.

Thulin said the company "will continue to look for a lot of acquisitions" when he takes the lead. It will also keep investing in new products, continuing a pattern of research and development that accelerated under Buckley.

Thulin, a native of Sweden, has been with 3M for 32 years. He began his career there with 3M in sales and marketing. Thulin says he was attracted to 3M by its innovations and focus on sustainability.

3M shares fell 4 cents to $87.85 in afternoon trading.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.