Boeing names veteran Stephanie Pope to new COO role

(Reuters) -Boeing on Monday named company veteran Stephanie Pope to the newly created position of chief operating officer, likely making her one of the top contenders to take over from CEO David Calhoun when he decides to step down from the role.

Pope currently heads the company’s after-market business, Boeing Global Services (BGS), the only segment to report a profit through the first nine months of this year as supply chain issues and cost overruns were a drag on its other two units – commercial airplanes and defense.

Boeing said Pope would assume the job effective Jan. 1 and that the heads of commercial planemaking and defense businesses would report to her. Her successor to lead BGS will be named at a later date, it added.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report Pope’s promotion to COO.

Calhoun, who has guided Boeing through one of its most turbulent phases in decades after overlapping safety and pandemic-induced crises, is expected to remain in the top job until around 2025-2026 to oversee the company’s financial recovery, sources said.

The planemaker in April 2021 extended the required retirement age to 70 from 65 for Calhoun, giving him enough time to steer the planemaker through its recovery process after a series of missteps. In February, Boeing’s board granted Calhoun a $5 million incentive that will be fully vested in 2025.

Pope, who joined Boeing in 1994, has been involved with all three of the company’s key businesses through these years.

She was finance chief of the commercial airplanes business and vice president of finance and controller of Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security segment in her previous roles.

She took over as head of BGS in April 2022. The business provides services such as engineering, maintenance and modifications, upgrades and conversions as well as spare parts to Boeing’s commercial and defense customers.

“Stephanie brings tremendous operational, financial and customer experience to this (COO) role,” Calhoun said in a statement.

Under Pope’s leadership, BGS has been “a superstar unit at Boeing in terms of operational excellence,” wrote Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu in a note.

Her promotion to COO “puts the potential future CEO in front of investors, customers and stakeholders ahead of any official transition.”

Pope will be the first woman CEO in Boeing’s history if she is named to the top job.

Boeing’s board met in recent days to discuss top executives that could eventually succeed Calhoun, sources said. Also in the running were CFO Brian West and the head of its commercial airplanes business Stan Deal, the WSJ reported.

(Reporting by Anirudh Saligrama and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru, and Valerie Insinna in Washington; Editing by Rashmi Aich, Anil D’Silva and Bernadette Baum)