Tools and hardware company Stanley Works (NYSE:SWK) today named former General Electric (NYSE:GE) executive John Opie, already a member of its board since mid-2000, its interim chairman. Opie will tend the position while the company looks to replace John Trani, who retired as chairman and CEO on December 31.

Whoever steps in will take over a company that has seen its shares come roaring back from early April lows. Stanley's stock fell sharply at that time on downbeat earnings news caused by economically depressed demand for its products. Q1 sales, before acquisitions, fell slightly year over year.

Since then, however, the company's shares have risen from the low $20s to their current perch near $38 (before today's open) -- a chart that will no doubt gratify Mathew Emmert, who took a quick look at Stanley back in March in an article discussing steady, dividend-paying businesses.

Stanley has delivered, or better, on its earnings projections and made some decisive moves since April. It boosted its dividend in July, sold its residential doors business to Masonite International (NYSE:MHM) for $160 million and, just last month, purchased a surveying and leveling tools company. Shortly afterward, it agreed to buy a UK-based commercial security systems company, in what was Trani's last major move as CEO.

Stanley's income statements haven't looked great in recent periods, but that hasn't stopped the company from aggressively pursuing potential avenues to restore growth (while also looking to improve operating leverage). How has it done this? You guessed it: Stanley consistently generates rich free cash flow well in excess of reported net income. It will be a powerful tool for whoever is tapped to fill Trani's shoes.

Have ideas for Stanley's future CEO? Share them on our Stanley Works discussion board.

Dave Marino-Nachison owns shares of GE. He can be reached at