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A. O. Smith Corp. Board of Directors announced Ajita G. Rajendra will transition from chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to executive chairman of the corporation, effective Sept. 1, at which time, Kevin J. Wheeler will assume the role of president and CEO. Rajendra will continue to lead the company’s Board of Directors as the executive chairman.
Wheeler becomes the 10th chief executive officer in the company’s 144-year history. Currently President and Chief Operating Officer, Wheeler will have responsibility for the company’s global operations, as well as strategy development and implementation, profitability and shareholder returns.
"Under Kevin Wheeler’s leadership, the North American water heater business has had strong financial performance, with sales growth of 26 percent while operating profit more than doubled,” Rajendra said. “He has tremendous knowledge of our business and the global experience to continue this outstanding performance.”
"Ajita Rajendra has made innumerable contributions to A. O. Smith’s success since joining our company 13 years ago,” Lead Director Gene C. Wulf said. “By every measure, the company has enjoyed substantial growth during his tenure. From when he became chief executive officer in 2013 until the end of last year, sales increased from approximately $1.9 billion to $3 billion. Earnings per share increased at a compound annual rate of nearly 21 percent during the same period; and A. O. Smith’s market capitalization grew from approximately $2.9 billion to $10.5 billion at the end of last year.”
Rajendra joined A. O. Smith in January 2005 as president of its Water Products Company, and was named an executive vice president of the corporation in 2006. He was promoted to president and chief operating officer in August 2011 and was elected to the company’s Board of Directors in December of that year.
Wheeler joined A. O. Smith in 1994 as a regional sales manager for the former Water Products Company. He has held a number of senior leadership positions during his 24 years with the company, including vice president-international, senior vice president and general manager of the U.S. retail water heater business, and senior vice president and general manager of the North America, India, and Europe water heating business.