Russell Investments on Monday replaced chief executive Craig Ueland with John Schlifske, a 21-year veteran of parent company Northwestern Mutual Life.

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Abruptly and with little explanation, Russell Investments on Monday replaced chief executive Craig Ueland with a 21-year veteran of parent company Northwestern Mutual Life.

John Schlifske, a Russell director and an executive vice president overseeing Milwaukee-based Northwestern’s investment products and services, took over as president and CEO of the Tacoma-based financial adviser immediately.

Ueland and Russell’s board jointly reached the decision that he should leave, spokeswoman Jennifer Tice said, though she didn’t provide any specifics as to why.

“It was agreed that this would be a good time to make a leadership change,” she said.

Russell’s board will look internally and externally for a permanent CEO, though Tice said there was no timeline for picking one.

Ueland, who had worked for Russell for 25 years, was not available for an interview, Tice said. In a written statement, Ueland said the 72-year-old firm has “a future that is every bit as bright as its past.”

Ueland was Russell’s chief operating officer when he was named the firm’s president and a director in July 2003; he took over the CEO’s spot from Mike Phillips in January 2004.

Phillips, who remains Russell’s chairman, said in a statement that Ueland “successfully melded his expertise and his deep affection for Russell and its purpose in order to drive growth and position the firm to compete in the global financial services landscape of the future. We wish him well as he moves on.”

The executive switch shouldn’t affect Russell’s decision on a new headquarters. The company employs about 1,100 people in downtown Tacoma, but is looking for new space to accommodate expected future growth. That decision still should come by the end of the year, Tice said.

Russell had nearly $213 billion in assets under management as of March 31. Its Russell 1000, 2000 and 3000 indexes are widely used to benchmark mutual-fund performance.

Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145 or ddesilver@seattletimes.com