Inge Thulin to Succeed Buckley as 3M CEO

Inge Thulin, who has served as chief operating officer since May, will assume the role of president and CEO on February 24.

After about a year of speculation as to who would take the reins at 3M Company following the retirement of CEO George Buckley, the Maplewood-based company has named a successor: Inge G. Thulin.

Thulin will assume the role of president and CEO on February 24. He has also been appointed to the company's board.

News of Thulin's appointment doesn't come as a surprise: The company named him chief operating officer (COO) last May, a role in which he oversaw 3M's six businesses and international operations. The appointment triggered speculation that Thulin was the heir apparent.

But a company spokeswoman told Twin Cities Business at the time of Thulin's appointment to COO that he was among a “wide range of candidates” under consideration for the CEO position, and the company hadn't since commented on who would replace Buckley.

Prior to becoming COO, Thulin, 58, was executive vice president of international operations. Under his leadership, international sales grew to nearly $20 billion and now represent two-thirds of 3M's total sales, the company said.

Buckley will remain chairman through the end of May. 3M said that its board intends to elect Thulin to the position of chairman at its May 8 meeting, and he will then succeed Buckley on June 1.

“Inge is a proven leader with a terrific blend of strategic, business, and analytical skills, and an excellent record of delivering both sales growth and operational efficiency in a wide range of global businesses,” Vance Coffman, 3M's lead board director, said in a statement. “His strengths will serve 3M well and ensure that the company remains on a strong growth track driven by innovation for many years to come.”

Buckley has served as chairman, president, and CEO of 3M since December 2005. His contract expires this month, when he turns 65-the company's mandatory retirement age for top executives. 3M spokeswoman Jacqueline Berry told Twin Cities Business on Wednesday that the mandatory retirement age doesn't apply to the role of chairman.

Buckley was only the second CEO in 3M's history to be recruited from outside the company, and he has served in board director positions at several other companies. He was also knighted by the Queen of England last year.

“We thank George for his exemplary leadership over the last six years,” Coffman said in a statement. “He achieved tremendous results for the company and navigated 3M successfully through one of the toughest economic times in recent history.”

3M is Minnesota's fifth-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $26.7 billion in 2010.

The company recently announced record fourth-quarter sales of $7.1 billion. Revenue for the full year of 2011 totaled $29.6 billion, up 11.1 percent, and earnings totaled $4.3 billion. 3M also affirmed its 2012 outlook; it expects earnings to be in the range of $6.25 to $6.50 per share.