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Illinois Tool Works Inc. : Illinois Tool Works CEO Speer Dies; Board Promotes Acting CEO

11/18/2012 | 05:22pm US/Eastern

By Bob Tita

(Updates with additional details on Mr. Speer's illness in the third paragraph.)

Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW) Chairman and Chief Executive David Speer died Saturday, a month after taking a medical leave from the diversified industrial company that he had led since 2005.

The company's board announced Sunday that E. Scott Santi will replace Mr. Speer as CEO and Director Robert Morrison will serve as chairman. Their appointments take effect immediately. Messrs. Santi and Morrison were named acting chief executive and acting chairman in October when Mr. Speer revealed that he would take a medical leave of absence from the company.

The Glenview, Ill., company did not release a cause of death for Mr. Speer, 61 years old. But he had been undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness for the past year. Mr. Speer's son told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday that his father had been suffering from a form of terminal cancer.

Mr. Speer had avoided taking a formal leave from the company until October when the company said he decided to "fully focus on his health."

"David's remarkable leadership will have a lasting impact on our company, " Mr. Santi said in a written statement. "I was privileged to have David as my colleague and mentor for over 30 years and I will miss him very much."

Mr. Speer was hired by ITW in 1978 for a sales position in the company's construction products group. He cycled through several sales and management positions before replacing retiring CEO James Farrell in 2005. The following year, the board elected Mr. Speer as chairman.

ITW operates about 800 companies focused on industrial sectors that include auto parts, commercial food equipment, construction materials, industrial packaging and welding gear. In the years just prior to the 2008 economic recession, Mr. Speer presided over an aggressive acquisition program under which ITW averaged about $1 billion a year in additional revenue from acquisitions of dozens of mostly small companies.

But the acquisitions came to a near-standstill in 2009, exposing the anemic sales growth from the businesses that ITW already owned. In his final year with the company, Mr. Speer abandoned a decade-old goal of increasing the company's collection of businesses to more than 1,000.

ITW instead has been trying to accelerate lackluster revenue growth by focusing on fewer, larger acquisitions, particularly in faster-growing markets overseas. The company also has been selling slow-growing businesses, divesting a majority stake in its laminates business in August to private-equity firm

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice LLC for about $1 billion and selling its paint finishings business to Graco Inc. in April for $650 million.

Mr. Santi, who has been a frequent fill-in for Mr. Speer at investor conferences and other events over the past year, is expected to continue the transformation of ITW's business portfolio.

Mr. Santi, 51 years old, joined ITW in 1983. He was appointed executive vice president in 2004 in charge of the company's welding equipment business, and in 2008 was named vice chairman. Mr. Morrison, 70 years old, has been an ITW director since 2003. He is a former vice chairman of PepsiCo. and was chairman and CEO of Quaker Oats Co. prior to its merger with Pepsi.

Write to Bob Tita at robert.tita@dowjones.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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