Agilent has named Mike McMullen, svp and president of its Chemical Analysis Group (CAG), as the eventual successor to CEO William (Bill) Sullivan, who will retire next year after a 39-year career with the biopharma tools company and its predecessor business.

McMullen was immediately named president and COO yesterday, with his ascension to CEO set to take effect on March 18, the company said. As president and COO, McMullen will oversee the company’s businesses—including CAG as well as the Life Sciences and Diagnostics Group, Order Fulfillment, a newly-combined services and consumables group, and the global organization that houses IT, workplace services, global sourcing and logistics.

Sullivan, 64, will remain as an advisor through the end of the company’s fiscal year, October 31, 2015, when his retirement becomes effective. Sullivan’s career began in 1976 at Hewlett-Packard, which in 1999 spun off its test and measurement business into Agilent.

Last year, Agilent announced a restructuring designed to refocus the company on the life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets. The restructuring includes spinning off its electronic measurement subsidiary into a separate company, Keysight Technologies, while retaining two business units—CAG, and a Life Sciences and Diagnostics Group combined from separate units focused on life-sci, diagnostics, and genomics.

“Agilent’s re-launch is the perfect time to begin the CEO transition,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Mike is an excellent choice to lead the company. He transformed CAG, reshaping its portfolio and championing key acquisitions that have resulted in a consistent, market-leading record of profitable growth.”

Like Sullivan, McMullen, 53, began his career at Hewlett-Packard, joining its Analytical products Group in 1984 as a financial analyst. Since 2009, McMullen has been an Agilent svp and president of CAG, responsible for carrying out reorganizations of the services and consumables business for CAG and Life Sciences, as well as companywide restructurings for Agilent’s chemical and energy, food and environmental markets businesses.

“Agilent is a great company that is well positioned to tap new opportunities in life sciences, diagnostics and applied markets,” McMullen added. “Our focus remains where it has always been—on our customers, supporting their everyday goals in the laboratory as well as their big, world-changing breakthroughs.”

Agilent’s CEO transition capped a busy day for the company, which separately announced its creation of a new unit combining its services and consumables operations, while its board of directors approved the planned spinout of Keysight.

The new Agilent CrossLab Group will be led by Mark Doak, who was immediately named group president after previously serving as svp and general manager of Agilent’s Services and Support Division. By repositioning under Doak from instrument repair to laboratory productivity solutions, Agilent says its services businesses have grown to more than 20% of total revenues. CrossLab will also include consumables operations led until now by Helen Stimson, who the company said will work with Doak in the new unit.

Keysight is expected to begin publicly trading its shares on the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 3, under the symbol KEYS. Before then, Agilent said, it will distribute to its shareholders as dividends all outstanding shares of Keysight's common stock. Agilent shareholders will receive one share of Keysight common stock for every two shares of Agilent common stock they hold. Shareholders owning fractional shares will receive cash.

The special dividend distribution is expected to be paid on November 1, to Agilent shareholders “of record” as of the close of business on October 22.

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