BAE Systems Said to Appoint Charles Woodburn as King Successor

  • Woodburn to join defense company as chief operating officer
  • King to remain in CEO role for at least next 12 months

BAE Systems Plc is set to announce Charles Woodburn as the U.K. defense contractor’s successor to Chief Executive Officer Ian King, according to a person with knowledge of the appointment.

Woodburn, the current CEO of London-based oil and gas company Expro International Group Ltd, will be hired as BAE’s chief operating officer before its full-year earnings report on Thursday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. King will likely remain in his position for at least 12 months before stepping down, the person said.

Charles Woodburn

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

BAE, which is required by the U.K. government to have a British citizen at its helm, has been scouting for a new CEO since last year. Woodburn, who doesn’t currently have experience in the defense industry, will report directly to King while learning about the business’s operations, the person said.

King took over as head of Europe’s biggest defense company in 2008 after spending 18 months as COO, and has overseen the company through the withdrawal of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a downturn in defense budgets in the U.S. and Europe -- it’s two largest markets -- as governments coped with the fallout from the financial crash.

Wars in the Middle East, related terror incidents in Europe including in Paris and Brussels, as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea has spurred an uptick in planned defense expenditure for 2016 and a commitment from the U.K. government to spend an additional 12 billion pounds ($17 billion) on equipment.

Woodburn became CEO of Expro in 2010 after spending 15 years at Houston, Texas-based oil services firm Schlumberger Ltd. He graduated with a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Cambridge in 1995, and holds a Masters of Business Administration from Rotterdam School of Management, according to his LinkedIn profile.

An official for BAE declined to comment.