July 1, 2005 in Business

3M chief chosen to lead Boeing

Mike Collas Associated Press
 

CHICAGO — Boeing Co. on Thursday named 3M Co. Chief Executive W. James McNerney Jr. as its new CEO, turning to an outsider to help the aerospace company recover from recent ethical lapses and lead its high-stakes bid to regain the top spot in commercial airplane sales.

McNerney, 55, will become the third chief executive of the airplane maker since December 2003, when former CEO Phil Condit resigned in the wake of a defense contracting scandal. His successor, Harry Stonecipher, was forced from his post in March after admitting an affair with a female Boeing executive.

Investors sent Boeing’s share price up $4.29, or 7 percent, to close at a four-year high of $65.96 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.

The appointment of McNerney — rumored as the strongest outside candidate to lead the company — bypassed two internal candidates who head Boeing’s largest business units.

Boeing Chairman Lew Platt earlier this month said the head of the commercial division, Alan Mulally, and Jim Albaugh, head of the company’s space and defense business, were on a short list of candidates.

On Thursday, Platt said both Mulally and Albaugh “seem to be committed to staying at the company and supporting Jim.”

McNerney, a Boeing director since 2001, initially was rumored as a leading prospect for Boeing’s top spot after Stonecipher’s departure. But McNerney dampened the speculation in April, saying he was happy at 3M and not a candidate for the Boeing job.

On Thursday, McNerney said he was sincere about initially wanting to remain at 3M when first approached by Boeing but began having second thoughts earlier this month.

“It was a difficult decision, a late change of heart, but as I sit here today I just couldn’t be happier,” McNerney told analysts and reporters on a conference call.

McNerney said Boeing is strong financially and its “strategy is in good shape,” indicating he will focus on executing Boeing’s business plan rather than implementing sweeping changes.

“It’s less big structural or financial or strategic fixes,” McNerney said. “It’s more becoming a part of the team.”

He added that he has known Mulally and Albaugh for years and praised their performance.

“I am enthused about them staying on and I’m delighted to report they’re enthused about working with me,” he said.

James Bell has served as Boeing’s interim president and CEO since Stonecipher’s departure and will remain chief financial officer. Besides the CEO job, McNerney was named board chairman and president

Before joining 3M in 2001, McNerney held several executive posts at General Electric Co., including CEO of GE Aircraft Engines and GE Lighting and as an executive vice president of GE Capital.

McNerney inherits a company performing well financially and gaining momentum in its commercial airplane business but still struggling to smooth over lingering tensions with the Pentagon and Capitol Hill.

Condit resigned in December 2003 as a result of defense contracting scandals that ultimately sent two Boeing executives — ex-Air Force procurement official Darleen Druyun and Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears — to jail.

© Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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