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Boeing Names GE Veteran Brian West as CFO

Boeing Co. named Brian West, a veteran of the aircraft-engine maker General Electric Co. , as its next chief financial officer.

Mr. West will succeed Greg Smith, the plane maker’s current CFO who is set to retire in July after serving as finance chief for a decade, Boeing said Wednesday. Investors and current and former Boeing executives considered Mr. Smith to be a steady hand through the company’s recent crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic, which decimated demand for new aircraft. His successor was considered a key appointment.

Mr. West is slated to take over as CFO on Aug. 27. He previously worked at Nielsen Holdings when Boeing’s Chief Executive David Calhoun was the market-research and measurement company’s CEO. He spent 16 years at GE, where Mr. Calhoun previously ran its aviation division. Mr. Calhoun, in a statement after The Wall Street Journal reported the appointment, said Mr. West was ideal for the Boeing job given his financial-management and operational experience in industries including aerospace.

Additionally, Boeing appointed to its board Stayce Harris, a former pilot for United Airlines Holdings Inc., in a move that will bring piloting and more military experience to the plane maker’s oversight of management.

Boeing’s leadership and board have faced several shake-ups in the past two years. In late 2019, the board ousted Dennis Muilenburg as CEO, installing Mr. Calhoun in the top job. Seven directors who were on the board when the second 737 MAX crashed have left. The company has added four new directors, including Ms. Harris, since the start of last year.

Ms. Harris, who flew various Boeing jets during her nearly three decades at United, is a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Boeing said. Her appointment comes as Boeing faces problems with defense aircraft, includingits military refueling tanker and replacement Air Force One jets used by the U.S. president.

As a Black woman, she adds to the board’s diversity. Companies across industries are being called upon to diversify their boards, and Boeing has recently added women and people of color to its board.

The company’s directors have included retired Navy officials, but no pilots or former Air Force officials in recent years.

Ms. Harris has worked closely with Boeing’s commercial and military aircraft throughout her career, the company said. At the Defense Department, she most recently served as inspector general of the Air Force.

Boeing’s board has faced criticism from shareholders, proxy-advisory firms and lawmakers regarding its oversight of management after two 737 MAX crashes in late 2018 and early 2019. The accidents, which took 346 lives, led Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to bolster their focus on how pilots interact with automated cockpit systems.

After the MAX crashes, the company split the roles of chief executive and chairman.

This article originally appeared on Wall Street Journal

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