Maplewood, Minn. — Buckley, 58, will succeed interim chairman and CEO Robert Morrison, a 3M board member who's been leading the company since July. That's when former CEO James McNerney left to lead Boeing.
Buckley comes to 3M after five years at the helm of Brunswick Corp., a company perhaps best known for making bowling balls. But under Buckley, Brunswick has also become a major boat manufacturer. 3M said Buckley would not be available for comment until Thursday.
Securities analyst Daniel Ortwerth with Edward Jones Investments says an initial review of Buckley's background shows that he might be a good fit for 3M.
"We understand that he was a very successful manager in his two previous posts, with Brunswick and Emerson. And he also seems to have the right kind of engineering background that at least suggests to us that he understands 3M's core technology base, or can relate to it well enough to lead it forward," says Ortwerth.
Buckley holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. But Ortwerth says in order to continue the company's success, Buckley must also match 3M's technologies with the evolving needs of the customer.
"What remains to be seen is just how capable he is from a marketing perspective, how well he's able to translate his knowledge into good marketing ideas," says Ortwerth. "It seems as though he was good at this in his previous post at Brunswick because the company seemed to succeed under him."
Not all investors cheered, though. One Wall Street analyst said Buckley isn't of the same caliber as Jim McNerney, who is a star on Wall Street.
Courage is necessary for a person to get off a dime and make the right kind of decision, a courageous decision, in order to make a company grow and improve.
- George Buckley
But at Brunswick, Buckley did what investors like. Under his stewardship, Brunswick's sales and profits soared and its stock price rose nearly 150 percent, even though it's slipped recently because the leisure industry was hurt by the tough hurricane season.
But 3M is a much bigger enterprise. With $20 billion in sales last year, it's nearly four times the size of Brunswick.
Alfred Marcus of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management says Buckley is credited with turning Brunswick around. Marcus says some of the steps Buckley took there could also help 3M.
"He stressed all the things an executive should be stressing. That is, at the same time he's talking about product development and growth, he's also talked a lot and made a lot changes with regard to efficiency and leanness of the company," says Marcus. "So he's working both sides of it, increasing revenues and also lowering costs, which has always been 3M's challenge."
But some fear that a focus on efficiency could hurt what has made the company thrive. Fred Zimmerman, an engineering and technology management professor at the University of St. Thomas, says he's not familiar with George Buckley, but he is familiar with 3M and its culture of innovation, which he says has been a major strength of the company.
"If the innovations can be preserved, the efficiencies will follow somewhat naturally, because most of the efficiencies are easier to achieve with strong growing businesses, and the innovations produce that," says Zimmerman.
Buckley was chosen after a five-month search. Before he was named CEO of 3M, he told National Public Radio's investment program, "The Motley Fool Radio Show," last month that courage is one of the most important leadership skills.
"Courage is necessary for a person to get off a dime and make the right kind of decision, a courageous decision, in order to make a company grow and improve on what it is today," Buckley said.
Investors reacted with what appeared to be caution at Buckley's selection. 3M shares were down slightly, 32 cents or four-tenths of one percent, to close at $77.38 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. In contrast, the company's share price jumped 11 percent when McNerney was named CEO almost exactly five years ago.
Investors may be saying Buckley has big shoes to fill.