By Doug Cameron 

Lockheed Martin Corp. Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson will step down from the role in June to be succeeded by aerospace industry veteran James Taiclet, the world's largest defense company by sales said Monday.

Mr. Taiclet joins from telecom infrastructure specialist American Tower Corp. but has been on the defense giant's board since 2018, having worked for a variety of other big aerospace companies.

Ms. Hewson will stay on as executive chairman from June, and her shift after more than six years as CEO continues a series of successions at the largest U.S. defense companies, with Northrop Grumman Corp., BAE Systems Inc. and, later this year, Raytheon Co. all changing their top leaders.

Mr. Taiclet, 59, will become president and CEO on June 15, and emerged as a contender to succeed Ms. Hewson after a number of other potential candidates, including former finance chief Bruce Tanner and aeronautics head Orlando Carvalho, opted to leave the company.

Ms. Hewson, 66, became CEO in January 2013 after CEO-elect Chris Kubasik was terminated as a relationship with a subordinate was found to have breached company rules.

Lockheed Martin is reviving the chief operating officer role formerly held by Ms. Hewson, with Frank St. John taking the position from June. Mr. St. John, 53, has been tipped by analysts as a future CEO.

The succession plan was disclosed as defense companies wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, especially on classified activities that account for 20% or more of their business.

Lockheed Martin and peers have halted all but mission-critical travel and increased telecommuting, but classified work has to be conducted in-person at secure facilities.

The Bethesda, Md., defense contractor said it has staggered shifts at its secure facilities and introduced flexible working practices to limit interaction.

Mr. Taiclet, who is currently chairman, president and CEO of American Tower, is a member of Lockheed Martin's classified committee. He formerly ran the aerospace services unit at Honeywell International Inc., and was a senior executive at the Pratt & Whitney unit of United Technologies Corp., which makes the engines for the F-35 combat jet.

Ms. Hewson is credited by analysts with mending relations with the Pentagon over cost overruns and delays with the F-35, the world's most expensive military program.

The F-35 continues to be plagued by technical problems, but cost-cutting efforts have reduced its price and the jet now accounts for almost 30% of Lockheed Martin's revenues, driving the company's backlog above $100 billion.

American Tower said CFO Tom Bartlett will succeed Mr. Taiclet as president and CEO.

--Colin Kellaher contributed to this article.

Write to Doug Cameron at doug.cameron@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 16, 2020 09:19 ET (13:19 GMT)

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