Defence contractor BAE Systems kicks off long-term search for successor to chairman

BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence contractor, is embarking on a search for a successor to its chairman, Sir Roger Carr, as it seeks to fill one of the most prominent jobs in corporate Britain.

Sky News has learnt that board members at BAE have begun interviewing advisers about assisting the recruitment process, which is expected to last for up to two years.

BAE has previously indicated that Sir Roger, who took the role in 2014, would retire at its annual meeting in 2023, and the commencement of the process now is said by insiders to reflect directors’ commitment to rigorous succession planning.

Sir Roger Carr was knighted in 2011. Pic: BAES
Sir Roger Carr took the role in 2014. Pic: BAES

A headhunting firm is expected to be selected shortly by BAE’s nominations committee.

The search will be led by Chris Grigg, the former British Land chief who is the arms manufacturer’s senior independent director.

The requirement for such a lengthy process is in part necessitated by BAE’s particular corporate governance framework.

It must have a British chief executive who is eligible for the highest level of security clearance, and while it is allowed to employ an overseas citizen as its chairman, the government’s strong preference is for a Brit to hold that role as well.

BAE’s search for Sir Roger’s successor comes as Rolls-Royce Holdings, another of the UK’s most important manufacturers, is also engaged in a hunt for a new chairman.

Sir Roger inherited the BAE chairmanship from Sir Dick Olver, who stepped down months after the company abandoned a €34bn merger with EADS, the European aerospace group.

Charles Woodburn has run BAE Systems since 2017. Pic: BAES
Chief executive Charles Woodburn was handed a £2m share award. Pic: BAES

The defence group was hit by a shareholder revolt at its AGM earlier this month after it disclosed that it had handed Charles Woodburn, its chief executive, a £2m share award to prevent him leaving to run Rio Tinto, the miner.

BAE declined to comment.

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