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November 09, 2015

DuPont names Edward Breen as new CEO

He replaces Ellen Kullman, who battled activist investors

Edward D. Breen has been named the new chair and CEO of DuPont, the Wilmington-based chemical and agricultural company announced Monday. He had been serving as interim CEO since mid-October, when former CEO Ellen Kullman resigned after a dramatic battle with activist investors.

Breen was CEO of security company Tyco International for a decade starting in 2002, successfully rebuilding the brand after its previous CEO was sent to prison for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the company. He oversaw a major restructuring that saw the company broken up into spinoffs Covidien, Tyco Connectivity and ADT Corp.

A member of the DuPont board since February, Breen has seen the company tussle with activist investors over falling profits, which the Wall Street Journal blamed partially on sinking global crop prices. DuPont is the fourth-biggest seed and pesticide company in the world, behind Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto.

"In the near-term, we are staying very close to our customers to deliver the value enhancing solutions they expect from DuPont innovation – even as we work with urgency to improve shareholder returns," Breen said in a statement.

Breen remains as chairman of Tyco and is also a director at Comcast Corp. Prior to serving as CEO of Tyco, he held executive positions at Motorola and the General Instrument Corp.

Kullman, who was the highest-paid female CEO in the Philadelphia region, managed to stave off an attempt by activist investor Nelson Peltz and three allies to gain a seat on the board in May. Though she won the battle, she ultimately lost the war. DuPont had to lower its earnings forecast twice in 2015 and saw its stock price slide 25 percent, leading Kullman to announce a surprise retirement at the age of 59.

A SunTrust analyst told Reuters in October that Breen's appointment may please activist investors: "Breen is an individual both sides respect, and he will be accepted by Trian Partners as an interim CEO."