LONDON (Reuters) - British defense company BAE Systems (BAES.L) has picked former oil industry executive Charles Woodburn as heir apparent to Chief Executive Ian King, a source close to the situation said on Sunday.
Woodburn, who has worked at oilfield services company Schlumberger (SLB.N) and is currently chief executive at private equity-backed Expro, is likely to be appointed as BAE Systems' chief operating officer this week before taking the top job in 12 to 18 months, the source said.
Reports last year said that BAE Systems had started a search to find the replacement for King, who has been in the role since 2008 and has had to navigate cuts in defense spending by the British and United States governments, BAE's biggest customers.
The company is set to embark on major new projects in the next few years, including building the replacement for Britain's Vanguard nuclear submarines.
Woodburn's appointment, which was first reported by Sky News, is a departure from BAE Systems' tradition of choosing an insider to the top job.
BAE Systems, which reports full-year results on Thursday, declined to comment.
Reporting by Sarah Young; Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Goodman