Ajita Rajendra retires as executive chairman; A. O. Smith names new chairman, president and CEO
A. O. Smith Corporation announced that Executive Chairman Ajita Rajendra has retired, effective May 1.
The company’s board of directors elected Kevin J. Wheeler as chairman of the Milwaukee-based water technology company, effective upon Rajendra’s retirement. Wheeler will continue to serve as president and CEO of the company. Rajendra will remain a member of A. O. Smith’s board of directors.
“Ajita has been an inspiring and visionary leader since the moment he joined the company in 2005 to run A. O. Smith’s water products division, as well as during his time at the helm of A. O. Smith as CEO and president from 2013 to 2018,” said William Greubel, lead director. “He built a strong team and developed the strategy that has resulted in the company’s current success in water technology.”
“A. O. Smith has flourished under Ajita’s guidance and tenure as chairman and CEO,” Greubel noted. “A. O. Smith went from being a $1.9 billion company when he began as CEO and president to a $3 billion organization, and our earnings per share had a compound annual growth rate of 22.3%. Under his watch, A. O. Smith acquired two water treatment companies in North America and built a stronger presence in China, India and Vietnam, further building and cementing A. O. Smith’s position as a global leader in water technology.
“The board has the utmost confidence about the company’s future with Kevin as our 10th chairman and CEO,” Greubel continued. “He and Ajita have worked together 15 years in shaping the company’s strategy. Like Ajita, Kevin has an obsessive focus on caring for our customers and rewarding our shareholders. He is an outstanding businessperson with strong values, strategic vision and excellent leadership skills.”
Rajendra joined A. O. Smith in January 2005 as president of its Water Products Co., a manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters and boilers, and he was named an executive vice president of the corporation in 2006. He was promoted to president and COO in August 2011 and was elected to the company’s board of directors in December of that year. Rajendra was named executive chairman of the corporation in September 2018 as he continued to lead the company’s board of directors.
In addition to the A. O. Smith board, Rajendra is a member of the board of directors of Donaldson Co. and the Timken Co. He is currently a member of the advisory board for the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee Lubar School of Business, the Board of Trustees of Alverno College in Milwaukee and a member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
Wheeler joined A. O. Smith in 1994 as a regional sales manager for the former Water Products Co. Prior to being named president and CEO, he held numerous senior leadership positions during his two and a half decades with the company, including vice president-international with responsibility for all European and Asian water heating operations, senior vice president and general manager of the U.S. retail water heater business and senior vice president and general manager of the North America, India and Europe water heating business.
Wheeler is a member of the Business Roundtable, Manufacturers Association of Productivity Improvement (MAPI) division leadership council and the President’s Roundtable. He has served as an at-large director of the Air-conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).