Deere names new chief executive

Deere & Co. said Monday its board had elected Samuel Allen to succeed Robert Lane as chief executive of the farm equipment maker starting Aug. 1.

Allen, 55, has also been elected president, chief operating officer and a board member of the world's largest maker of agricultural equipment, effective Monday. He will succeed 59-year-old Lane as board chairman.

Moline, Ill.-based Deere has seen its fortunes fall in recent months as the global economic crisis undermines demand for its products. Last month, the company reported a 38% drop in second-quarter profit as farmers and other customers cut spending on tractors, mowers and construction equipment. It also slashed its profit forecast for the second time this year.

Allen has been president of the Moline, Ill.-based company's construction and forestry division since 2005 and has been responsible for the global operations of its power systems group since 2003. He's worked for the company for 34 years.

Since 2001, Allen has been a senior officer with responsibilities in human resources and industrial relations, as well as oversight of Deere's global credit operations, the company said.

"We have significant challenges but exciting global opportunities," Allen said in a statement.

The move took some analysts by surprise. Longbow research analyst Eli Lustgarten said he was unaware of Deere's plans to name a new CEO.

"He runs the secondary businesses of Deere, and he's done a nice job in a difficult business," Lustgarten said of Allen.

Deere's board chose Allen, who will become Deere's ninth chief executive since the company's founding 172 years ago, after an 18-month selection process, according to Lane. Lane's decision to leave was "a personal choice," said Deere spokesman Ken Golden.

Golden said Lane has no intention of leading another company. "It's been a very systematic process," he said, adding that Lane had been charged with identifying possible successors.

Deere shares jumped $2.98, or 6.9%, to $46.45 in afternoon trading.

The Tempe, Ariz.-based trade group, the Institute for Supply Management, said its index on manufacturing came in at 42.8 — its highest level since September — compared with 40.1 in April.

Deere announced other executive moves on Monday.

Michael Mack, Jr., the company's chief financial officer since 2006, will become president of its construction and forestry division.

James Field, who had been president of Deere's commercial and consumer division, which makes products like riding mowers, will become chief financial officer.

Jean Gilles, who has been senior vice president of Deere's power systems group, will become senior vice president of intelligent mobile equipment technologies and advanced technology and innovation.

Deere has five plants in Iowa at— Ankeny, Dubuque, Davenport, Waterloo and Ottumwa.