British defense giant BAE Systems announced Monday the appointment of Charles Woodburn as its new chief operating officer, in a move widely seen as a precursor for him to take over from Ian King, the current CEO, upon the latter’s departure.
Woodburn, 44, is a veteran of the oil and gas industry, having worked with Schlumberger for 15 years, and became the chief executive of UK-based oil services company Expro International in 2010. He will be appointed to the board of BAE Systems as an executive director during the second quarter of 2016, a company statement said.
As an industry outsider, “Charles will bring fresh perspective to the Company’s operations and Board, whilst building a detailed knowledge of the defense industry under the guidance of Ian King,” Sir Roger Carr, Chairman, BAE Systems, said in the statement.
Media reports last week suggested that Woodburn’s appointment was imminent, and that he would take over from King, who has been CEO since 2008, in 12 to 18 months.
BAE Systems is the United Kingdom’s largest arms maker and defense contractor, and lists the Pentagon among its customers. This is a crucial time for the company, as military spending seems to be on the rise in many Western countries after years of stagnation. The arms maker is struggling with winning export orders for its Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets and is also facing some troubles with its shipbuilding business, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“Seeking an outsider could bring a fresh vision to BAE, which needs to reinvent and re-position part of its business, after years of difficulty budgetary environments,” Christophe Menard, an analyst with KeplerCheuvreux, told Reuters.
King will stay on as CEO till at least February 2017, Bloomberg reported, citing a source. Woodburn, who will report directly to the CEO, said: “I look forward to contributing to the Company’s continued growth and development.”
The company is set to announce its annual results Thursday. Its shares were trading 2.5 percent higher on the London Stock Exchange Monday, slightly higher than the movement of the FTSE 100 index.