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H&R Block Appoints William Cobb as CEO, Succeeding Bennett

H&R Block Inc., the biggest U.S. tax preparer, named board member William C. Cobb to be chief executive officer, replacing Alan Bennett, who is retiring.

Cobb, 54, will take over the Kansas City, Missouri-based company on May 16, and Bennett will remain on the board through September, H&R Block said today in a statement. Cobb was president of EBay Inc.’s U.S. marketplaces division and oversaw affiliated businesses including online ticket reseller StubHub, and

“Bill is a seasoned global business executive with a deep understanding of retailing, franchising, digital and international business,” Chairman Robert A. Gerard said in the statement. “Bill’s broad background is right for H&R Block, and his experience on our board will let him hit the ground running.”

H&R Block is changing leadership as it seeks to recapture market share lost to Intuit Inc., the maker of TurboTax, and to counter the firm’s inability to offer clients refund-anticipation loans this year. Gerard was appointed chairman last week, succeeding hedge-fund manager Richard Breeden.

‘Unplanned Terms’

Bennett, 60, a board member since 2008, is retiring and returning to his home in Connecticut after two “unplanned terms” as CEO, the company said in the statement. He was interim chief in 2007 and 2008, before the company reappointed him to the post last July after Russell P. Smyth resigned to take another job.

Cobb, who was named to the board in August, was an executive at PepsiCo Inc. and Yum! Brands Inc. before joining EBay in 2000 and “has helped build some of the world’s top brands,” including Pizza Hut and Doritos, Gerard said in the statement.

Breeden, the former head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a senior adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, stepped down April 18, more than three years after seizing control of the company in a proxy fight. He wants to devote more time to his hedge fund, Breeden Capital Management, H&R Block said in announcing his departure in March.

Total tax returns prepared by H&R Block climbed an annualized 6.1 percent from Nov. 1 through April 18, the company said today in a separate statement announcing preliminary tax-season results.

H&R Block slipped 7 cents to $17.81 at 4:15 p.m. today in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. It’s this year’s third-best performer in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, after advancing 50 percent.

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