Honeywell Appoints First COO Since Cote Became Chief in 2002

  • Darius Adamczyk `most likely successor' to Cote, analyst says
  • Cote said to plan to stay until contract expires in 2017

Honeywell International Inc. named Darius Adamczyk the company’s first chief operating officer since Dave Cote took over as chief executive officer in 2002, setting the stage for transition at the top position.

Adamczyk, who ran the performance-materials unit, will work closely with Cote “to drive continued profitable growth,” Honeywell said in a statement Monday. Cote, 63, is planning to remain as CEO until his current contract expires at the end of 2017, said a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified.

“Though not explicit in the announcement, this seems to be a clear indication to us that Mr. Adamczyk is the most likely successor to chairman/CEO Dave Cote,” said Steve Winoker, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. “In Mr. Adamczyk, Honeywell is looking at an accomplished, stable leader with a track record of success across a wide range of businesses.”

With a “highly successful and highly visible” CEO at Honeywell, investors had been raising questions about who would replace Cote, Winoker said. Honeywell’s statement didn’t mention succession plans.

Adamczyk will focus on Honeywell’s operating strategy, which Cote developed to boost profit margins through cost cuts and new technologies. Cote is credited with turning around a company that was leaking talent and had made large writedowns after GE’s attempt to acquire it was blocked by European Union regulators. 

“We view this move as a clear sign of orderly succession planning at Honeywell, with the board preparing for the company’s next chapter following the eventual retirement of Mr. Cote,” said Deane Dray, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets LLC, in a note Monday.

Alex Ismail, who heads Honeywell’s Automation & Control Solutions business, was likely on the short list for candidates to succeed Cote and there’s a possibility he may not stay with Honeywell after missing out, Dray said in the note.

‘Long-Term Success’

Adamczyk, 50, who has a master’s degree in computer engineering from Syracuse University and an MBA from Harvard University, rose to run one of Honeywell’s three business units in just eight years with the company. His rise is even more impressive given that Adamczyk emigrated to the U.S. from Poland at age 11 without speaking any English. Performance Materials and Technologies generated about $9 billion in revenue last year with such products as refrigerants, specialty films for health care and photo-voltaic applications and items for the refining and petrochemical industries.

“Darius is absolutely the right person to help Honeywell through the changes that will undoubtedly be necessary in the future to ensure the long-term success and evolution of the company,” Cote said in the statement.

He will be replaced at Performance Materials and Technologies by Rajeev Gautam, who is chief of the company’s UOP business. That operation is the part of performance materials that makes products for the oil-and-gas industry.

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