DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman to retire

While a search for Kullman’s permanent placement is underway, Ed Breen will assume the role of interim CEO. DuPont will put out third-quarter results October 27.

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According to her, now is the right time for a new leader to continue to drive Dupont’s transformation.

Ellen Kullman, the chairman and chief executive officer of DuPont Co., announced her intention to retire while the company cut its profit forecast and an activist shareholder who wants to break up the 213-year-old chemical maker increased its stake. It’s targeting $1.6 billion in cost-savings on a run-rate basis by the end of 2017. In her 27 years with the company, Kullman is credited with helping the company through the recession.

Under Kullman, DuPont fended off an attempt by activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management to land board seats earlier this year.

For the second-half of the year, Dupont expects to deliver operating earnings of approximately $0.40 per share, lower than its previous guidance if $0.75 per share.

DuPont also downgraded its operating earnings outlook on Monday, saying it now expects operating earnings per share for the full year of about $2.75, compared with prior guidance of $3.10. It did not detail its actions but said it would finalize its cost-cutting plans in the fourth quarter. In return, DuPont has been experiencing a reduced demand for crop protection products.

“Clearly the board has continued to press Peltz’s concerns about underperformance and a few steps were taken”, said the investor, who asked not to be named. Mr. Peltz had sought more changes, including the possibility of splitting the company further. “We’ll be looking at decisions [in R&D] and whether those still make sense in the market environment we’re dealing with today”, he said.

Breen has been a board member of DuPont since February.

Ms. Kullman’s seven-year tenure atop DuPont was bookended by tumult. “They’re getting hurt in the agricultural business; they’re getting hurt on chemicals”.

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The announcement caps a turbulent year for Kullman at the head of the Wilmington-based company.

Ellen Kullman chairman and chief executive officer of Du Pont Co