• Engineer to join defense heavyweight in second quarter
  • Appointment marks end of year-long search for King successor

BAE Systems Plc appointed oil-industry veteran Charles Woodburn as chief operating officer, earmarking him as the chosen successor to Chief Executive Officer Ian King.

Woodburn, currently CEO of U.K. oilfield exploration and testing specialist Expro International Group Ltd., will join BAE in the second quarter, the London-based company said in a statement Monday.

Charles Woodburn
Charles Woodburn
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

BAE Chairman Roger Carr said the company had hired Woodburn as part of its “succession-planning program.” The armsmaker has now ceased its search for a replacement for King and Woodburn will assume the CEO role in due course, a person familiar with the plan said Saturday.

Woodburn spent 15 years at Houston-based oil services firm Schlumberger Ltd. before joining Expro in 2010. As a British citizen he fulfills a key requirement for a prospective BAE chief, imposed by the British government through its so-called golden share.

The Cambridge University engineering graduate, who doesn’t have direct experience of the defense industry, will be paid a base salary of 750,000 pounds ($1.09 billion), as COO plus 1.62 million pounds for forfeited earnings at Expro.

BAE said in its statement that he’ll report directly to King while learning about the group’s operations, which span warplanes and drones to aircraft carriers and cyber security. The stock rose as much as 2.2 percent in early trading.

King, who turns 60 in April and who has run BAE since 2008, will stay at least until the company’s full-year results statement in February 2017, the person said Saturday. He too was appointed COO while being groomed for the senior role, though unlike Woodburn was a company veteran, having joined Marconi, one of BAE’s constituent companies, in 1976.

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