November 25, 2014 / 2:45 AM / 5 years ago

United Tech CEO steps down, replaced by CFO in abrupt change

(Reuters) - United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) Chief Executive Officer Louis Chenevert has retired immediately and is being replaced by the company’s finance chief, the diversified U.S. manufacturer said on Monday, an abrupt change that caught Wall Street off guard.

Louis Chenevert, Chairman and CEO of United Technologies Corporation (UTC), gestures on stage as he remarks about the new Sikorsky Aircraft S-97 RAIDER helicopter during its unveiling ceremony at Sikorsky Aircraft in Jupiter, Florida in this October 2, 2014 file photo. United Technologies Corp said Chenevert would retire immediately and named Cheif Financial Officer Gregory Hayes as his successor. REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity/Files

The maker of Otis elevators, Pratt & Whitney jet engines and Sikorsky helicopters said in a press release that Chenevert, 57, informed the United Tech board of his retirement.

It did not provide a reason for Chenevert’s retirement, which comes two weeks before he was to present the company’s 2015 financial outlook to analysts and investors at a meeting in New York.

Taking over as CEO will be Greg Hayes, a 25-year company veteran who has served as United Tech’s chief financial officer the past six years.

A United Tech spokesman said Chenevert’s retirement “is entirely unrelated to the financial performance” of the company, which backed its 2014 earnings and sales forecasts.

Chenevert also stepped down as chairman. Edward Kangas, lead independent director, will take the post of non-executive chairman.

“This has come out of the blue, and as far as we know was not planned,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard, one of several analysts who expressed surprise at the move.

Shares of United Tech, a Dow Jones industrials index component, fell 1.1 percent to $109.12 in morning trading. After a big run in 2013, the stock has fallen some 3 percent this year.

Chenevert spent 22 years at United Tech after arriving from General Motors (GM.N). After running Pratt & Whitney for seven years, he became chief operating officer before ascending to the CEO role in 2008.

A signature move of his tenure was the $16 billion acquisition of aircraft components maker Goodrich Corp, announced in 2011. That deal tilted United Tech more toward an aerospace company and away from the other major area of the company that sells elevators, climate control systems and security products for commercial buildings.

Since March, Hayes and other executives have suggested United Tech was interested in a major acquisition in the buildings area.

Hayes, 54, is familiar to Wall Street, as the main presenter on earnings conference calls and at investor events held by brokerages.

“We view Greg Hayes as highly qualified to lead United Technologies and as someone who understands investors and communicates with them effectively,” JPMorgan analyst Joseph Nadol said in a research note.

additional reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bangalore

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