A Boeing CEO curse on BCA presidents?

ray conner obama.jpgPresident Obama congratulates Ray Conner in February after witnessing the contract signing for Lion Air’s massive order for 201 737s. 

In an unexpected development, Ray Conner has become the new president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Jim Albaugh has already stepped down and will serve as executive vice president of BCA until he retires on 1 October.

Conner inherits a resurgent single-aisle product, a recovering 787 programme and some big decisions ahead over whether to pull the trigger on the 787-10 and, with product development vice president Nicole Piasecki and programme manager Scott Fancher, lay out the specifications of a new and improved 777 family.

If Conner, 57, manouevres these wickets successfully, it’s not too early to wonder what else may be in store for the 35-year Boeing veteran. Boeing has a mandatory retirement age of 65, and the current chairman and chief executive, Jim McNerney, celebrates his 63rd birthday on — at least according to Wikipedia — 22 August.

But Conner’s bid to become the corporate CEO runs against the tide of the history of the BCA division. Despite representing arguably the heart and soul of the Boeing brand, the BCA job is seldom a stepping stone on the path to become CEO. The 62-year-old Albaugh, for example, once was the subject of speculation he could succeed McNerney. Alan Mullaly was famously passed over for the job in 2004 after serving as the head of BCA for nearly six years.

Indeed, in the position’s 40-year history, there have been nine BCA presidents, and only one moved on to become president of the whole company. That was Frank Schronz Shrontz in 1985. Of course, an executive vice president — but not president — of BCA, Phil Condit, claimed the corporate CEO title, but we cannot recommend that example.

Here’s a full list of BCA presidents and the years they served:

Tex Boullioun – 1972-1981

Richard Welch (pdf) – 1981 -1984

Frank SchronzShrontz – 1984 – 1985

Dean Thornton – 1985 – 1993

Ron Woodard – 1994-1998

Alan Mullaly  –1998-2006

Scott Carson – 2006 – 2009

Jim Albaugh – 2009 – 2012

Ray Conner – 2012 -