Armstrong World Industries, Inc. announced that Michael Lockhart will be stepping down as Armstrong’s chief executive and president, and as chairman of the board and a director, effective Feb. 28. The board has elected James O’Connor, currently the company’s lead independent director, as chairman. O’Connor will head a search committee to identify and evaluate candidates for the ceo position, with an interim president expected to be named in the near future.

“I have been proud to serve as Armstrong’s ceo for nearly 10 years. I want to thank the thousands of people who have worked together to successfully implement the changes necessary to make this a better company,” Lockhart said. “Armstrong is about to enter a period that has the potential to be the best in its long history.  The prospects for the company are genuinely exciting and I wish my colleagues continued success.”

In a statement, Armstrong's Board of Directors said, “Armstrong has accomplished a great deal since Mike became ceo in 2000. Under his leadership, the company resolved its asbestos liability and emerged successfully from bankruptcy reorganization. The company’s North American floor business regained its position as an industry leader through enhanced product quality and design, and increased investment in the brand. Thanks to Mike’s prudent management during the sharp economic downturn of the last two years, Armstrong has remained profitable and has grown free cash flow. The company will reap the benefits of his stewardship. We thank Mike for his important contributions and wish him all the best for the future.”

O’Connor, incoming chairman of the board, noted, “The board and Mike agreed this was the right time to look for new leadership to take the company into its next phase of growth.”

O’Connor has served as a director of the company since February 2007 and as the lead director since February 2009. He also serves as the lead independent director of the boards of directors of Corning, Inc., Smurfit – Stone Container Corp., UAL Corp. and United Airlines. He retired as chairman and ceo of Unicom Corp. and its subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison Co., in 1998. He is a past chairman of the board of the Edison Electric Institute and of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and previously served as a director of Bell and Howell, Borg-Warner, Esmark, Everen Securities, First Chicago Corporation, Tribune Company and Trizec Properties Inc.