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United Rentals announces new CEO, board chairman

January 9, 2019

STAMFORD — United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment-rental company, has announced that President and Chief Operating Officer Matthew Flannery will be promoted to CEO this year, while Chief Executive Michael Kneeland will step down and become the Fortune 500 firm’s board chairman.

In a statement, United officials described the changes as part of a “thoughtful and comprehensive process” that reflected the Stamford-based company’s depth of executive talent. The new appointments — which will also see board chairwoman Jenne Britell retire from her post — are set to go into effect at the company’s annual shareholders meeting on May 8.

“I am honored to take the baton from Michael and look forward to continuing to work alongside the best employees in the industry,” Flannery, who has worked at United since 1998, said in the statement. “With the strong and sustainable business model we have today, our potential for continued value creation has never been greater.”

Kneeland has served as CEO since 2008. He joined the firm in 1998, when his former company, Equipment Supply Co., was acquired by United.

“I’ve worked with Matt for 20 years — he’s an outstanding leader who has been integral to the successful execution of our strategy,” Kneeland said. “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.”

Since 2009, United has nearly doubled in size, with approximately 1,200 locations staffed by 18,800 employees and annual revenues of more than $7.8 billion. It is headquartered in the First Stamford Place office complex, in the city’s Waterside section.

United joined the S&P 500 stock index in 2014 and rose to the Fortune 500 ranks in the same year. It placed No. 424 on this year’s Fortune 500 list.

Acquisitions have catalyzed United’s growth. Last year, it acquired equipment-rental firm BlueLine Rental for about $2.1 billion and liquid-management firm BakerCorp International Holdings for $715 million.

“The transformation of the company has created substantial value for our customers, employees and shareholders,” Britell said. “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.”

An adviser with Manhattan-based Brock Capital Group and former executive vice president at GE Capital, Britell has served as United’s chairwoman since 2008.

Last month, Britell and fellow board members Terri Kelly, Kim Harris Jones and Gracia Martore were named to the 2018 Most Influential Corporate Directors list of WomenInc., a multimedia platform focused on women in business.

Britell’s accolades also include the 2011 Director of the Year award from the National Association of Corporate Directors.

Among the 16 Connecticut companies on this year’s Fortune 500, United, Synchrony and The Hartford are the only three firms with one-third female representation on their boards.

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

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