United Rentals’ board of directors has named Matthew Flannery, the company’s current president and chief operating officer, its new CEO, while retaining the role of president, replacing Michael Kneeland, who will become non-executive chairman. Kneeland will replace Dr. Jenne Britell, chairman for the past decade. The appointments will become effective at the company’s annual meeting of stockholders on May 8.
Also, Bobby Griffin, a 10-year member of the board and chairman of the Strategy Committee, will become lead independent director.
“It has been an honor to help guide United Rentals through a decade of remarkable growth,” said Dr. Britell. “The collaboration between our directors and senior management is unique in my experience, and on a personal level, it is gratifying to know that we have achieved our objectives. The transformation of the company has created substantial value for our customers, employees and shareholders. Michael has been involved in the board process from both sides for more than a decade, making him the ideal choice to succeed me as chairman.”
Britell, Kneeland and Flannery have led the evolution and growth of United Rentals for more than a decade. Since 2009, the company has nearly doubled in size to approximately 1,200 locations with 18,800 employees and annual revenue of more than $7.8 billion. In that time, the company has successfully integrated numerous acquisitions, significantly expanded its strategically important and specialty rental offering, and effected a cultural transformation that has elevated employee engagement, safety, innovation and customer service. The company joined the S&P and Fortune 500 in 2014, and, during the 10-year period ended Dec. 13, 2018, generated a total stockholder return of 1008 percent, outperforming the S&P 500 index by 830 basis points.
“This succession plan is the culmination of a thoughtful and comprehensive process, made easier by the depth of our executive talent,” said Kneeland. “I’ve worked with Matt for 20 years. He’s an outstanding leader who has been integral to the successful evolution of our strategy. Through changes to our customer, fleet and services mix, we have enhanced our position as the market leader and fully transformed United Rentals. There is no better executive than Matt to take the helm given his years of experience and achievements, and I’m confident that our company will be in excellent hands.
“Jenne has been a catalyst for positive change throughout our company for more than a decade. Under her leadership, our board has evolved into a model of diversity. And more broadly, her championship of inclusion has inspired hundreds of women to achieve management positions within our company, making us more attractive to prospective customers, employees and investors. In these and countless other ways, she has served as an architect of our vision. It will be a privilege to build on her legacy.”
During Britell’s tenure with United Rentals, she was named the 2011 Director of the Year by the National Association of Corporate Directors, which cited her board leadership qualities, financial expertise and strategic decision-making.
“I am honored to take the baton from Michael and look forward to continuing to work alongside the best employees in the industry,” said Flannery. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested in growing our scale, technology and service offering to further differentiate United Rentals, and will continue to do so. There is tremendous opportunity to build on our leadership position. With the strong and sustainable business model we have today, our potential for continued value creation has never been greater.”
Flannery has more than two decades of executive experience in the equipment rental, including more than 20 years with United Rentals. He has been president since March 2018 and has been chief operating officer since 2012. In these roles, Flannery has led the execution of the company’s growth strategy, resulting in significant organic expansion and the successful integration of more than a dozen acquisitions. He previously served as executive vice president-operations and sales, and senior vice president-operations east, following region and district management roles. Flannery joined United Rentals in 1998 when United acquired McClinch Equipment.
Kneeland has more than 35 years of experience in the equipment rental industry including leadership positions with private, public and investor-owned companies. He joined United Rentals in 1998. Kneeland served as CEO and director since 2008, and also served as president from 2008 to March 2018. Earlier, Kneeland held a number of senior positions, including executive vice president-operations. Before United Rentals, Kneeland served in executive roles with Free State Industries, and Equipment Supply Co., which was the largest aerial equipment rental provider in North America when it was acquired by United Rentals. In addition to serving on the board of United Rentals, Kneeland is a director of YRC Worldwide Inc., and Anticimex Group.
Griffin became a United Rentals director in January 2009, and currently chairs the Strategy Committee. Before retiring from his executive career, Griffin held senior leadership positions during 21 years with Ryder System Inc., most recently as president-international operations from 2005 to 2007. Prior to that, he served as executive vice president-international operations and executive vice president-global supply chain operations. Before Ryder, Griffin was an executive at ATE Management and Service Company, which was acquired by Ryder in 1986. In addition to serving on the board of United Rentals, Griffin is a director of Hanesbrands Inc., WESCO International Inc. and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc.