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Caterpillar Names New Chief

Caterpillar named a successor to the retiring Jim Owens, the head of the company's successful engines division.
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PEORIA, Ill. (TheStreet) -- Caterpillar named a successor to Chief Executive Jim Owens, who is retiring next year.

Douglas R. Oberhelman, the current president of the company's engines unit, will take the reigns of the heavy-equipment bellwether when Owens, 63, steps down in June, Caterpillar said in a press release Thursday morning.

Owens, who became CEO in 2004 and who made his intention to retire known in 2008, will remain chairman until October, following the company's mandatory retirement policy.

Oberhelman has piloted an engines business that has outperformed the company's better-known machinery unit throughout the recession. Sales declines in Oberhelman's divisions -- which include turbines as well as the engines used to power big equipment -- have been less severe than those of its sibling, and the unit has turned a profit, whereas the machinery segment has lost money.

Oberhelman, 56, is a career Caterpillar executive. Joining the company in 1975, directly out of college, he started in the treasury department, rose up the corporate ladder via postings in South America and Asia, and became the company's CFO in 1995, serving until 1998, when he took over management of the engines division.

In a prepared statement, praises were sung. "Doug's expertise in all critical facets of our business, combined with his international business experience in Asia and Latin America, and his relentless focus on execution and results make him uniquely qualified to lead Caterpillar in today's global economy," Owens said in the press release.

On Tuesday, Caterpillar reported third-quarter earnings that impressed Wall Street. Its top executives also made rosy remarks about 2010, indicating that the multinational concern is confident that an economic recovery has been developing.

Midway through Thursday's regular session, Caterpillar shares were trading at $57.47, down 0.9%.

-- Written by Scott Eden in New York

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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.