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Pity This Industrial CEO's Successor

Investors are keeping industrial CEOs on a tight leash these days, but when it comes to Roper Technologies Inc.'s Brian Jellison, it's more out of possessiveness than as a way to keep him in line.

Jellison was named CEO of the now $24 billion maker of legal software and electronic highway-toll systems in November 2001, just two months after Jeff Immelt ascended to the top post at General Electric Co. Immelt's retirement announcement last month and a rise in CEO departures across the industrial sector has drawn fresh attention to the question of how much longer Jellison will stick around at Roper, and who could succeed him. He's one of the oldest leaders among members of the S&P 500 Industrials Index and about a decade Immelt's senior at 71.

The two men's situations couldn't be more different. GE says Immelt's decision to step down was the result of years of succession planning, but it coincided uncomfortably with investor ire over a perpetually weak stock price and disappointing cash flow. And Jellison? This is what's happened at Roper under his watch:

It's an outsized performance no matter how you benchmark it, and it's put Jellison in the position of having investors concerned about -- rather than clamoring for -- his exit. Enviable for him, perhaps, but it creates a quandary for his eventual successor.

Jellison's retirement may be a while off. Asked about it in 2015, he said he was "still having fun" and noted the mandatory retirement age for the board is 78. In the...