Doug Oberhelman, elected last week to be Caterpillar Inc.’s future chairman, will be the second consecutive person in the job with a background in finance. Oberhelman, 57, was elected by Caterpillar’s board of directors to the positions of vice chairman and chief executive officer-elect and he will hold those positions for several months before succeeding Jim Owens as chairman and CEO.

Doug Oberhelman, elected last week to be Caterpillar Inc.’s future chairman, will be the second consecutive person in the job with a background in finance.


Oberhelman, 57, was elected by Caterpillar’s board of directors to the positions of vice chairman and chief executive officer-elect and he will hold those positions for several months before succeeding Jim Owens as chairman and CEO.


In a move believed unprecedented at Caterpillar, Owens will relinquish the CEO title to Oberhelman on July 1, 2010, but will remain chairman of the board for another four months before he retires in accordance with Caterpillar’s long-standing retirement policy.


That policy calls for officers to retire at age 65. Owens, now 63, has been chairman and CEO since Feb.1, 2004, when he succeeded Glen Barton.


“The transition period is a bit longer this time than in the past because the company wants it to be as smooth as possible,” said Caterpillar spokeswoman Kate Kenny.


She said the board did not reveal the process it used in selecting Oberhelman to succeed Owens or whether other company officers — including its other group presidents — were also considered.


Oberhelman has been a group president since 2002, currently overseeing the company’s human services and sustainable development and Caterpillar’s remanufacturing business.


He also currently is chairman of the boatd for NC2, the new truck engine joint venture between Caterpillar and Navistar International.


Oberhelman previously was vice president and chief financial officer for the company and just prior to his election as group president he was vice president overseeing the Engine Products Division.


As vice chairman and CEO-elect, Oberhelman will take on the responsibilities of managing the leadership transition and updating the company’s strategy, the company said.


Announcing the succession plan at this time allows Oberhelman to concentrate on aligning resources for the future and defining critical success factors for Caterpillar’s leadership going forward, it said.


Owens lauded Oberhelman in a release. “Doug has gained a broad understanding of Caterpillar’s business through his diverse background, which has ranged from serving as our chief financial officer, to focusing on operational excellence in Cat’s engine manufacturing operations, to leading marketing efforts in the Americas,” said Owens. “Doug’s expertise in all critical facets of our business, combined with his international business experience in Asia and Latin America, and his relentless focus on execution and results make him uniquely qualified to lead Caterpillar in today’s global economy.”


In that release Oberhelman said he was honored with the selection as he praised Owens.


“Jim has been instrumental in redefining Caterpillar and putting in place a strategy to achieve the company’s Vision 2020. This highly focused strategic plan has resulted in a clear vision for the company and laid the foundation for Caterpillar’s outstanding performance to date in these very difficult economic times. I am truly honored to follow him as Chairman and CEO and to lead one of the most dedicated and talented groups of employees in our industry,” said Oberhelman.


He’s been with Caterpillar since 1972, joining the company as a corporate economist.


He was vice president and chief financial officer from 1993 to 1995 and was elected a group president in 1995.


Paul Gordon can be reached at (309) 686-3288 or pgordon@pjstar.com.