Boeing Searches For Next CEO – In and Out of The Company

By Spyros Georgilidakis | March 27, 2024

The “hunt” for the next Boeing CEO is on. And besides Boeing itself, the markets, airlines, lessors, suppliers, AND unions, all have a say.

Industry analysts have described this week’s changes at Boeing as the biggest corporate shakeup in the company’s history. And it is arguably the most hurried one, with Boeing’s board running out of options, as other stakeholders run out of patience.

Boeing Searches For Next CEO – In and Out of The Company
Another Alaska Air 737-9. Photo: Sam Almo-Milkin, CC BY-SA 4.0

Despite early positive market reactions when Dave Calhoun’s departure as Boeing CEO became known, Moody’s is considering downgrading Boeing’s rating. This is primarily due to the expected 737 production shortfall, after the FAA’s limitations and the certification delays of the 737 MAX-7 and MAX-10.

Clearly, finding the right person to become the next Boeing CEO will be a tricky exercise. Some current Boeing board members are potential candidates. David Gitlin could be one of them, while some suggest that Calhoun himself wanted Stephanie Pope as his successor.

Photo: Boeing

Choices, Near and Far

However, the timing of the shakeup was too early for Pope, now Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO, to get the helm of the entire group, according to some observers. But what about outsiders?

Pat Shanahan, the recently appointed CEO of Spirit AeroSystems, could be a favorite with several Boeing stakeholders. However, he isn’t quite an outsider, since he is a former Boeing executive, who left this position for a government job under the previous U.S. president.

Boeing Searches For Next CEO – In and Out of The Company
Image: Boeing

One argument in favor of Shanahan is that he knows the company, but has a broader background in the industry. However, a Spirit spokesperson appeared to quash these rumors, saying that Shanahan will continue busying himself with Spirit’s quality and safety culture. But if Spirit becomes part of Boeing..?

Other names, like American Airlines independent chairman Greg Smith (another former Boeing executive) or current GE and GE Aerospace CEO Larry Culp, have also been suggested as candidates. But both could be reluctant to give up other current posts, to take on the Boeing challenge.

Photo: Alfred Gf

Boeing, A New CEO and Union Contract Talks

Meanwhile, this year Boeing is negotiating its 10-year contract with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 751, its largest labor union. IAM 751 represents 32,000 workers in Washington state, where Boeing makes all planes except the 787.

Analysts like Scott Hamilton at Leeham News have pointed out that Boeing has very little leverage in these negotiations. Ten years ago, IAM 751 had to make several concessions, to ensure that projects like the 777X would remain in the Puget Sound area.

Boeing Searches For Next CEO – In and Out of The Company
Boeing’s Everett factory (when 747s still ruled supreme). Photo: Jeremy Elson, CC BY-SA 3.0

But this time around, the union holds all the cards. And their demands reportedly include having a seat on the company’s board. Negotiations are ongoing, but the contract is up in September, four months before Calhoun departs as Boeing CEO.

Other unions, like SPEEA (engineering employees), want an engineer as the next Boeing CEO. This is a view shared by several stakeholders and analysts. And finding someone that will satisfy all stakeholders, including the FAA, could still take some time.


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