Boeing has accelerated its search for a new chief executive after forcing the resignation of Harry Stonecipher, who was brought out of retirement after Phil Condit resigned abruptly as chief executive in December 2003. The appointment of chief financial officer James Bell as interim chief executive has raised questions about Boeing's planning for a successor to Stonecipher, who was due to retire next year.

Despite appearing to have two strong internal candidates in Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally and Integrated Defense Systems chief executive Jim Albaugh, for the second time in 15 months the company has opted for a short-term, rather than long-term solution.

Until Stonecipher's departure, it was "premature" to start a search for a new chief, says chairman Lew Platt. "We intend to complete the process as quickly as we can," he says. "We have internal candidates; we will also be looking at external candidates." Board member James McNerney, chief executive of 3M, and David Calhoun, chief executive of GE Transportation, have been speculated about as potential external candidates.

Platt says Boeing's board is "looking for someone who can serve for more than couple of years. That probably has us looking for people who have the capacity to serve 10 years." That may work against Mullaly, who at 60 is five years away from Boeing's mandatory retirement age of 65.

Stonecipher was 67 when he was called out of retirement to replace Condit, who resigned in the wake of the scandal over former chief financial officer Mike Sears's illegal employment talks with senior US Air Force procurement official Darleen Druyun. Platt says the board requested Stonecipher's resignation "because of actions inconsistent with Boeing's code of conduct which reflected poorly on his judgement", and which could impair his ability to lead the company.

Stonecipher, tasked with restoring Boeing's reputation after a series of damaging ethics violations, was judged to have violated the company's code of conduct in actions related to his affair with a female Boeing executive. "[He] was the staunchest supporter of the code of conduct…even minor violations would not be tolerated," says Platt. "When one does that you have to live by that standard."


Source: Flight International