(Bloomberg) -- DowDuPont Inc. said Andrew Liveris will step down as executive chairman, ending a career that saw him rise through the ranks of Dow Chemical Co. to chief executive officer and orchestrate the world’s largest chemical industry merger with DuPont Inc.
The 63-year-old executive will relinquish the chairman’s title on April 1 and remain on the board until July 1, the Wilmington, Delaware-based company said in a statement on Monday. With DowDupont splitting into three separate businesses, Jim Fitterling was appointed to be CEO of the soon-to-be created materials company that will be called Dow. He is currently chief operating officer of that unit.
Liveris had considered leaving last year amid activist pressure as DowDuPont looked to reshape management to prepare for a breakup. After a 40-year career with Dow, Liveris said he decided to step down while spending Christmas with his family in his native Australia, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier. He judged the time was right with the stock price trading at all-time highs following the completion of the $78 billion merger and the start of the Saudi Arabia petrochemical complex Sadara, the newspaper said, citing an interview with Liveris.
“Now is the right time for me to effect my previously announced plan to transition and then to retire,” Liveris said in the statement. Jeff Fettig, who is co-lead independent director of DowDuPont, will take over as executive chairman.
Fitterling, 56, joined Dow Chemical in 1984 and headed a series of units, including packaging and specialty plastics. As chief operating officer at Dow, he led the merger with DuPont, which closed last September.
Delays getting regulatory approvals for the deal prompted board discussions on Liveris delaying his retirement last year. The board then bumped his exit to July 1 of this year. Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jonas Oxgaard said at the time that retaining Liveris may interfere with the leadership of DowDuPont CEO Ed Breen.
Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management and Dan Loeb’s Third Point both targeted Dow and DuPont, forcing the company to change its plan for splitting up into more focused groups. A Dow lifer, Liveris faced pressure from Third Point, which didn’t want him involved in the merged company.
Building out the senior management team at Dow materials, DowDuPont Chief Financial Officer Howard Ungerleider will serve as president and CFO once its separation is complete.
“Each played a pivotal role in developing and executing Dow’s market-driven strategy,” Liveris said in the statement.
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