Boeing taps salesman Conner to run commercial planes

Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:13pm EDT
 
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By Bill Rigby

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote) appointed a new head of its commercial plane unit on Tuesday, turning to a veteran engineer-turned-salesman to help gain the upper hand in its battle with Airbus for the $100 billion-a-year aircraft market.

The surprise move, just weeks before the Farnborough Airshow, comes as Boeing attempts to ramp up production of its civil aircraft, including the troubled 787, and regain its leading position in the key single-aisle market after losing a large American Airlines AAMRQ.PK order to rival Airbus.

Boeing said Raymond Conner would be the new head of its best-known unit with immediate effect, replacing another longtime Boeing executive, Jim Albaugh.

Conner, 57, joined Boeing in 1977 as a mechanic and worked his way up the company's engineering, supply chain and marketing groups to become head of sales. Albaugh, 62, who came to prominence at Boeing's defense operations, is to retire on October 1 -- three years before Boeing's standard retirement age -- after 37 years with the company.

The move was greeted positively by industry analysts, who applauded the appointment of a sales-oriented head in place of the engineering-minded Albaugh.

"Commercial aircraft sales is a very customer-centric job," said Carter Leake, an analyst at BB&T Capital Markets. "Conner is more from true-blue aircraft sales than Albaugh. Arguably Conner has touched more Boeing customers than any person in the entire company."

SALES JOB

One industry source said Albaugh wanted to hand over the reins now so that his successor would have a chance to represent Boeing at Farnborough, one of the most important events in the company's calendar where it will be under pressure to announce new orders.   Continued...

 
James F. Albaugh, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, talks to workers during a ceremony for the first 787 Dreamliner passenger jet to be assembled at Boeing's South Carolina facility in North Charleston, April 27, 2012. REUTERS/Mary Ann Chastain