ABB Ltd., which last week announced the surprise departure of Chief Executive Officer Joe Hogan, said Prith Banerjee, board member and head of technology, is quitting to return to the U.S. after one year in the post.
There is no link between the departures of Hogan and his technology chief, and the timing is “pure coincidence,” said Antonio Ligi, a spokesman for ABB, the world’s biggest supplier of power grids. Banerjee is leaving to spend more time with his family, Ligi said by phone. ABB shares fell 0.9 percent to $21.32 as of 3:38 p.m. in Zurich, where the company is based.
Banerjee, a U.S. citizen hired by Hogan, oversaw ABB’s development of a high-voltage, direct-current circuit breaker during his short tenure. The circuit breaker, cited as one of 2013’s 10 breakthrough technologies by MIT Technology Review, is used to build grids that more efficiently integrate energy from distant power sources such as offshore wind farms, and followed years of research by ABB engineers.
“Prith has brought new momentum to ABB’s research and development,” Hogan said in a statement. “I regret Prith’s decision to leave.”
Claes Rytoft, head of technology at the Power Systems division, will be interim Chief Technology Officer as ABB searches internally and externally to fill the position.
The chief technology officer, a former electrical engineering professor at the University of Illinois and Hewlett-Packard Co. executive, is taking a position outside the company and will leave in the next few weeks, ABB said.
Hogan, the first American to lead ABB in its 120-year history, will step down for “private reasons” once a successor is found, after five years at the helm during which he spent $20 billion on investments and acquisitions to broaden the company’s reach and portfolio.
Hogan didn’t resign because of ill health and there was no conflict with the board or chairman, Ligi said last week.
The February appointment of Eric Elzvik to the role of chief financial officer, after a career of almost three decades at the company, may lend a degree of stability to management as Hogan is replaced.