Published in Manufacturing

Steelcase leader Jim Keane to retire; Sara Armbruster named company’s 10th CEO

BY Monday, April 19, 2021 12:14pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Global furniture maker Steelcase Inc. announced today its timeline for a transition at the company’s top executive role.

Jim Keane, who has served the Grand Rapids-based company as president and CEO for the last seven years and has been with the company for a total of 25 years, will retire on Jan. 7, 2022. 

Sara Armbruster & Jim Keane COURTESY PHOTOS

He will transition out of the president and CEO role on Oct. 4 and finish his time with the company as vice chairman on Steelcase’s board of directors, reporting to board Chairman Robert Pew.

“The board of directors and I would like to thank Jim for his incredible leadership as CEO these past seven years and dedication to Steelcase the past quarter of a century,” Pew said in a statement. “Under his leadership, the company has experienced tremendous levels of innovation and growth. Jim led the business through the recent global crisis and leaves Steelcase in a strong strategic and financial position. We wish him the best in his retirement.”

Sara Armbruster, who was appointed to executive vice president last week, will take over for Keane on Oct. 4 and serve as the 10th CEO in Steelcase’s 109 years of history.

Keane, 61,, first joined Steelcase in 1997 and has also served as chief operating officer and chief financial officer during his time with the company. He was appointed to Steelcase’s board of directors in 2013.

Keane serves on a variety of boards, including The Economic Club of Grand Rapids and Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association (BIFMA), and is on the board of trustees at the Grand Valley University Foundation.

Under his guidance, Steelcase established its Learning + Innovation Center in Munich, Germany — its second such center — and placed a focus on corporate responsibility and sustainability. In 2020, Steelcase achieved carbon neutrality and set new targets to move beyond net zero emissions in 2030. 

“I have never been more excited about the future of Steelcase,” Keane said in a statement. “Still, after 25 years, it’s the right time for me to move forward, and with the crisis ending, the recovery taking shape, and a number of innovative new products ready to go, it will be the perfect time for the company to welcome a new CEO.”

Armbruster, who has been with Steelcase since 2007, has served as vice president of strategy, research and digital transformation since February of 2018. In addition to leading corporate strategy and acquisition activities, Armbruster has led other businesses within Steelcase, including Steelcase Education, Steelcase Health and PolyVision Corporation, which specializes in manufacturing products with CeramicSteel surfaces.

Armburster has maintained a broad range of responsibilities, including leading information technology, global design research, new business initiatives and the company’s COVID global crisis response team.

“I am truly honored to accept this new role and grateful for the 14 years I worked closely with Jim Keane,” Armbruster said. “I’m proud to work alongside our strong senior leadership and incredibly talented, committed teams around the world. This is an important moment of growth for our company as the places where people work and learn are being reimagined. Thanks to Jim, Steelcase is tremendously well positioned at a time when leadership in shaping the future of work is critical.”

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