CEO of Lowe’s to step down

By Katherine Peralta - The Charlotte Observer

Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The CEO of Mooresville, N.C.-based Lowe’s is stepping down.

In a statement Monday morning, the home improvement retailer said Robert Niblock has decided to retire after 25 years at the company. The company’s board of director has begun a search for Niblock’s replacement, and in the interim, Niblock will remain in his position as chairman, president and CEO.

News of Niblock’s departure sent Lowe’s shares up 6.14 percent in early trading to $88.91.

“After a 25-year career at Lowe’s, including 13 years as chairman and CEO, I am confident that it is the right time to transition the company to its next generation of leadership. Serving Lowe’s alongside our over 310,000 outstanding employees has been my great privilege and the highlight of my professional career,” Niblock said in the statement.

Lowe’s has been working to cut costs and boost earnings at a time when home improvement retailers are benefiting from a strong housing market. The performance at Lowe’s has trailed Atlanta-based rival Home Depot.

Earlier this year, Lowe’s reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell below expectations, despite a rise in same-store sales, an industry term key to gauging a retailer’s health. “We are moving forward with urgency to improve our results,” Niblock said in a call with analysts at the time.

A Lowe’s shareholder for years, the hedge fund D.E. Shaw began building up an activist stake in the company last fall, and now has an approximately $1 billion stake in the company. The firm has been pushing for changes at Lowe’s and in January, the company announced three new board members.

A source familiar with the matter has told the Observer that layoffs are not anticipated as part of any changes. The person, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter, didn’t rule out changes in the management at Lowe’s, however.

“Under (Niblock’s) guidance and stewardship, Lowe’s has built a strong foundation for growth and today the company is well positioned as a leader in home improvement with the right strategy in place to drive innovation, accelerate sales growth and enhance profitability,” Marshall Larsen, lead director of the Lowe’s board, said in Monday’s statement.

Earlier this month, Lowe’s said it was parting ways with NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson after 18 years as his primary sponsor in order to “invest in other strategic initiatives.”

Niblock’s departure marked the sixth CEO change among major local public companies since the beginning of this year.

The CEOs of restaurant chain Bojangles’, Bubble Wrap maker Sealed Air, hotelier Extended Stay America, industrial conglomerate Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises and door and window maker Jeld-Wen Holding have all stepped down for various reasons.

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By Katherine Peralta

The Charlotte Observer

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