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Chris Bryant

BAE's Uncharted Waters

Naming Woodburn as COO sets stage for King's replacement

U.K. aerospace and defense group BAE Systems looks to be preparing the ground for Charles Woodburn, an oil industry executive, to become CEO. By hiring an outsider, it's taking a leaf from Rolls-Royce's playbook. Last year the aircraft engine maker appointed a chipmaking expert, Warren East, to help it overcome falling profits.

Woodburn's not on such a dramatic rescue mission, however, since incumbent CEO Ian King has steered BAE through a tricky period of falling U.K. and U.S. defense budgets. That doesn't mean it's all going to be smooth sailing for his prospective successor.