Boeing chief steps down in wake of Air Force contracting revelations

Philip Condit, chief executive officer and chairman of Boeing Co., resigned Monday, just days after two other high-ranking company officials were fired for an alleged ethics breach involving defense contracts.

Condit's departure follows the firing last week of two Boeing executives, Michael Sears, its chief financial officer, and Darleen Druyun, a vice president and former senior acquisition official at the Air Force. Condit said that Sears had discussed a job at the company with Druyun while she was representing the Air Force in contract talks over a multi-billion-dollar plan to lease refueling tankers. That deal attracted considerable controversy, and the revelations that the employees tried to cover up their discussions touched off the firestorm that led to Condit's resignation.

Two veteran executives with ties to the technology and aerospace sectors now will take command of Boeing, which has lately faced increased competition from European aerospace rivals and tough federal sanctions in its satellite business.

Lewis E. Platt will serve as the company's non-executive chairman, Boeing said in a statement. Platt is a Boeing board member and also the former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. He left the firm in 1999.

In 1997, Platt served as chairman of the Computer Systems Policy Project, a group of chief executives that takes public policy positions on trade and technology issues. It is helmed by a number of top officials from leading federal technology contractors.

Harry Stonecipher will assume CEO duties, Boeing said. Stonecipher's career spans nearly five decades in the aerospace field, and includes stints at General Motors, General Electric and a term as CEO of McDonnell Douglas in the mid 1990s, before the company merged with Boeing.

Stonecipher also served as president of aerospace firm Sundstrand Corp. in the late 1980s. That company suffered a scandal in 1988, after it admitted overbilling the government for military related aircraft parts. Sundstrand paid a $115-million settlement, which was reportedly the largest fraud settlement in history at the time. Boeing said in its statement announcing Stonecipher's appointment as CEO that he "repaired [Sundstrand's] seriously damaged customer relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense."

Boeing now has its own military problems. In addition to the recent firings over the tanker lease deal, the Air Force suspended Boeing in July from launching government satellites. The service took action after determining Boeing broke federal law in obtaining proprietary data from satellite-launching rival Lockheed Martin.