KINGSPORT — He’s been at the helm of Eastman Chemical Co. since 2002, taking steps as chairman andchief executive officer to help strengthen the company’s market position and ensure its viability into the future. Now Brian Ferguson has announced he will step down as CEO in May but continue serving as executive chairman of the board through 2010. In a company release issued Monday afternoon, Ferguson said he’s proud of Eastman’s accomplishments during his tenure. “We have restored the fundamental financial health of our company, broadened our business and commercial capabilities, and built a results-driven culture,” Ferguson said. “We’ve also set a strategic path to sustain and grow Eastman well into the future, and I look forward to remaining a part of that as executive chairman.” James P. Rogers, 57, has been tapped to serve as president and CEO following the company’s annual stockholder meeting on May 7, 2009. Rogers, currently president of Eastman and head of its Chemicals and Fibers Business Group, will also serve as a director of the company, effective immediately. “I look forward to building on the success the company has achieved under Brian’s leadership,” Rogers said. Ferguson, 54, became chairman and CEO of the Kingsportbased chemical company in 2002, replacing Earnie Deavenport Jr. At the time, Eastman was on track to split into two separate companies — Eastman and Voridian — in a plan advocated by its former CEO, Deavenport, who had headed the company since it was spun off from Kodak in 1994. But Ferguson ditched plans to split Eastman and instead announced a plan in 2003 to restructure the company, and divest and consolidate under-performing assets and businesses. Eastman went from bleeding red ink to posting profits. Sales of the company grew from $5.3 billion in 2002 to $6.8 billion last y e a r. Ferguson also shrunk Eastman’s work force from nearly 16,000 employees in 2002 to about 10,500 people today, including 7,000 in Kingsport. “Brian has provided great leadership to Eastman since he became CEO in 2002,” said Stephen R. Demeritt, chairman of the board’s Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee. “We look forward to his continuing contributions as executive chairman of the board of directors.” On Monday, Ferguson said the company is well-positioned to endure today’s tough economic climate because of the actions that have been taken. “This is the right time to pass the torch to Jim and our talented team of senior executives,” Ferguson said. “Jim knows our company well and is a proven and effective leader. His contributions to Eastman have been numerous and significant to our success, and I’m very confident he is wellprepared to be the next CEO of Eastman Chemical Company.” Rogers has been in his current position since 2006. Before that, he served as executive vice president since 2003. He joined the company in 1999 as senior vice president and chief financial officer and was later appointed chief operations officer of Eastman Division. Before joining Eastman, Rogers was executive vice president and chief financial officer of GAF Materials Corp. He also served as executive vice president of finance for International Specialty Products Inc.