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Boeing CEO to step down as 737 Max crisis weighs on aerospace giant

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun speaks to reporters as he departs from a meeting at the office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on Capitol Hill January 24, 2024 in Washington, DC. 

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun will step down at the end of 2024 in part of a broad management shake-up for the embattled aerospace giant.

Larry Kellner, chairman of the board, will not stand for reelection at Boeing’s annual meeting in May, Boeing said Monday. He will be succeeded as chair by Steve Mollenkopf, who has been a Boeing director since 2020 and is a former CEO of Qualcomm. Mollenkopf will lead the board in picking a new CEO, Boeing said.

And Stan Deal, president and chief executive of Boeing’s commercial airplanes unit, is leaving the company effective immediately. Moving into his job is Stephanie Pope, who recently became Boeing’s chief operating officer after previously running Boeing Global Services.

The departures come as airlines and regulators have been increasing calls for major changes at the company after a host of quality and manufacturing flaws on Boeing planes. Scrutiny intensified after a Jan. 5 accident, when a door plug blew out of a nearly new Boeing 737 Max 9 minutes into an Alaska Airlines flight.

“As you all know, the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 accident was a watershed moment for Boeing,” Calhoun wrote to employees on Monday. “We must continue to respond to this accident with humility and complete transparency. We also must inculcate a total commitment to safety and quality at every level of our company.

“The eyes of the world are on us, and I know we will come through this moment a better company, building on all the learnings we accumulated as we worked together to rebuild Boeing over the last number of years,” he wrote.

Calhoun told CNBC in an interview Monday that the decision to resign was “100%” his own.

“We have another mountain to climb,” Calhoun said. “Let’s not avoid the call for action. Let’s not avoid the changes that we have to make in our factory. Let’s not avoid the need to slow down a bit and let the supply chain catch up.”

Calhoun, a more than decade-long board member at Boeing, took the top job in January 2020 after the company ousted its previous chief executive, Dennis Muilenburg, for his handling of the aftermath of two deadly 737 Max crashes. In 2021, Boeing’s board extended the CEO’s mandatory retirement age from 65 to 70, a vote of confidence in Calhoun, who turns 67 next month.

For months Calhoun has promised investors, airline customers and the general public that Boeing will get its myriad quality struggles under control. The Federal Aviation Administration has stepped up oversight of Boeing, and agency Administrator Mike Whitaker after the Alaska Airlines accident said Boeing will be barred from increasing 737 production until the FAA is satisfied with the company’s quality control.

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Boeing’s production problems have delayed deliveries of new planes to customers and hampered growth plans. CEOs of some of the company’s largest customers, including United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have publicly complained about the delays.

Ryanair, Boeing’s largest airline customer in Europe, said in a statement Monday it welcomes the management changes.

“Stan Deal has done a great sales job for Boeing for many years, but he’s not the person to turn around the operation in Seattle, and that’s where most of the problems have been in recent years,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said in a video posted to social media platform X.

United’s CEO, Scott Kirby, earlier this month said he urged Boeing to stop making yet-to-be-certified Max 10 planes for the company because it wasn’t clear when the FAA would clear those aircraft to fly.

Last week, airline CEOs started scheduling meetings with Boeing directors to voice their displeasure at the lack of manufacturing quality controls and lower-than-expected production of 737 Max planes. The meetings were to include Kellner and one or more other board members. Those meetings will go ahead with Mollenkopf, according to people familiar with the matter.

Also last week, Boeing Chief Financial Officer Brian West said at an industry conference that Boeing would burn more cash than expected because of limited 737 Max production.

Boeing’s stock added 1.4% on Monday after the announcements. Its shares are down more than 26% so far this year.

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