Boeing names 2 execs as vice chairman, putting them in the hunt when CEO McNerney retires

Boeing handed new titles to two of its top executives, giving an indication of where it is headed when current Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney retires.

Defence chief Dennis A. Muilenburg was promoted to president and chief operating officer, and named as vice chairman of the company. Raymond L. Conner was also named vice chairman, and will continue to run Boeing’s commercial airplanes division.

Boeing spokesman John Dern said the moves are part of Boeing’s process for planning for the eventual retirement of McNerney, 64.

Boeing’s retirement age for executives is 65, although the board can ask them to stay longer and it has in the past, Dern said. He declined to say whether McNerney is seeking to stay past 65. “There aren’t any current plans for his retirement,” Dern said.

Boeing’s airplane and defence units used to be roughly equal by revenue, but booming sales of commercial planes have pushed that division ahead. Conner, 58, has been leading Boeing’s commercial airplane division since June 2012. He has run Boeing’s 777 and 747 programs, and was leading sales for commercial airplanes when he got the job running that division.

Muilenburg, 49, has been running Boeing’s defence unit since 2009. Before that he was president of its military support and services business.

The moves leave Conner running Boeing’s largest division and reporting directly to McNerney, as will new defence chief Christopher Chadwick, Dern said.

Muilenberg is no longer running his own division, but Boeing’s announcement suggested that he’ll be working closely with McNerney on corporate issues and projects.

Boeing’s announcement said Conner and Muilenburg “will join with McNerney in managing a number of core Boeing corporate processes and activities,” and in helping Boeing’s different units co-operate.

Chadwick, 53, is currently president of the military aircraft unit.

Shares of Chicago-based Boeing Co. fell 39 cents to $135.49 on Wednesday. They set a 52-week high of $142 last month.