Two more top executives retire as 3M mulls CEO's future

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By Scott Malone

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BOSTON (Reuters) - Cross two more names off the list of 3M Co <MMM.N> insiders who could succeed George Buckley as chief executive if he steps down when he turns 65 next year.

The diversified U.S. manufacturer, which has a tradition of ending its CEOs' contracts at that age, said on Friday that Executive Vice President Jean Lobey, 58, and Senior Vice President Robert MacDonald, 60, will retire in the next two months.

Those looming departures, along with Chief Financial Officer Patrick Campbell's upcoming retirement, could signal some of the top brass at the maker of products ranging from Post-It notes to optical films used in flat-panel televisions no longer think they have a shot at the corner office.

"Given that you now have three executives leaving in a relatively short period of time, there is a possibility that there was some thought that they may have had a chance at that position, which is not the case at this point," said Jeff Windau, an analyst at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

The company has named replacements from within 3M for all three executives, who are due to retire in May and June.

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CEO WANTS TO STAY

Buckley, who joined 3M as CEO from Brunswick Corp <BC.N> in 2005, has made no secret of his desire to stay on past his contract's expiration date in February 2012.

"I love being the CEO of 3M," Buckley told investors in March. "I'm not the guy that has the choice on whether I stay or not."

That choice lies with the company's 10-member board of directors -- which Buckley has a seat on. The board is expected to choose whether to break with its tradition and extend Buckley's contract in the coming months.

"If you have a CEO that is excited, and I think doing a pretty terrific job, why not keep him on if he wants to stay?" said Adam Fleck, an equity analyst with Morningstar in Chicago.

3M shares were up 1 cent at $93.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.

But analysts expect the 109-year old company, which employs more than 80,000 people worldwide, to choose its next leader from among its current executive ranks.

Even with the current round of retirements, 3M has a deep bench of executives with decades of experience at the company, including Inge Thulin, executive vice president of international operations and Brad Sauer, executive vice president of its health care unit.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)