He is succeeded by Chief Operating Officer Thomas J. Falk, who was elected CEO today by the board and is expected to be elected chairman in February, the company said.
Mr. Sanders, 55, said the move was a "carefully planned transition" that has been in the works since Mr. Falk was named president and chief operating officer in 1999.
Mr. Sanders became chairman-CEO in December 1991 and led Kimberly-Clark as its Huggies brand became a leader in the $4.5 billion U.S. diaper category and as Pull-Ups established a training pants category in the U.S. He also led Kimberly-Clark's 1995 acquisition of Scott Paper Co., which made the company a major player in bath tissue and paper towels.
Mr. Falk helped lead the integration of Scott and the 1999 streamlining of Kimberly-Clark's operations globally.