BAE Systems Plc (BA/) announced the surprise departure of Linda Hudson, the chief executive officer of its U.S. operations and one of first women to ascend to the ranks of a senior executive in the defense industry.
Hudson will retire no later than March 31, 2014, the London-based company said in a statement today. Hudson, 62, has run BAE Systems Inc. since 2009 and will temporarily remain in position to ease the transition to a new leader.
The U.S. market, which account for about 40 percent of revenue at Europe’s largest defense company, has been under pressure as defense spending is being cut, forcing the company to seek sales in other regions. Hudson joined BAE in 2007 as president of its land & armaments group, after working at General Dynamics Corp. (GD)
“She has led the transformation of BAE Systems Inc. by streamlining the organization, reducing costs, increasing efficiency and speed to market, and diversifying the company’s portfolio of products and services,” CEO Ian King said in the release. “She has done this while leading a culture change with a focus on delivering strong business performance and efficiency.”
Hudson, a systems engineer by training, was among the first female leaders the U.S. defense industry, where she has since been joined by Marillyn Hewson, president and CEO of the largest defense company, Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), and Phebe Novakovic, chairman and CEO of Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics.
“In a very challenging period for the industry following the draw down of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, we have shown we can do the right thing for our customers and our company by resizing and restructuring the business for these times and continuing to perform exceptionally well,” Hudson, who will remain on the board of BAE’s U.S. arm through April 2015, said in a letter to employees.
Hudson’s departure comes amid a broader overhaul of senior management. BAE plans to appoint chairman-designate Roger Carr, now chairman at British Gas parent Centrica Plc (CNA), to its board on Oct. 1. Carr will replace Dick Olver next year, who has held the job since 2004.
BAE rose 0.2 percent to 441.30 pence as of 3:53 p.m. in London today, valuing the company at 14.3 billion pounds ($22 billion).
BAE also said board member Lee McIntire will step down to avoid a conflict of interest because he is also CEO at London-based engineering firm CH2M Hill, which is bidding to run the U.K. defense-equipment organization under a new outsourcing arrangement the government is pursuing.
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