CEO of Mooresville-based Lowe’s to step down

The CEO of Mooresville-based Lowe’s is stepping down, a move that will usher in a new era of leadership as the company works to catch up to its larger rival, Home Depot.

The home improvement retailer said in a statement Monday morning that Robert Niblock has decided to retire after 25 years at the company. The company’s board of director has begun a search for Niblock’s replacement, and in the interim, Niblock will remain in his position as chairman, president and CEO.

Following the news, Lowe’s shares climbed more than 5 percent to $88.65 in early afternoon trading, on a largely positive day for financial markets.

“After a 25-year career at Lowe’s, including 13 years as chairman and CEO, I am confident that it is the right time to transition the company to its next generation of leadership. Serving Lowe’s alongside our over 310,000 outstanding employees has been my great privilege and the highlight of my professional career,” Niblock said in the statement.

The UNC Charlotte graduate and certified public accountant joined Lowe’s in 1993. Before becoming CEO in January 2005, he was the company’s chief financial officer. He took over the chief executive role from Bob Tillman, the architect of the strategy that transformed Lowe’s from a small regional company into the nation’s second-largest home improvement retailer.

In the past year, Lowe’s has been working to cut costs and boost earnings at a time when home improvement retailers are benefiting from a strong housing market.

Earlier this year, Lowe’s reported fourth-quarter earnings that fell below expectations, despite a rise in same-store sales, an industry term key to gauging a retailer’s health. “We are moving forward with urgency to improve our results,” Niblock said in a call with analysts at the time.

Last fall, hedge fund D.E. Shaw, a longtime Lowe’s shareholder, began building up an activist stake in the company, and now has an approximately $1 billion stake in the company. The firm has been pushing for changes at the retailer, and in January Lowe’s announced three new board members…..

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