Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush Copyright Alex Wong, Getty Images
Wes Bush

Northrop's CEO to Depart Next Year as Defense Giant Elevates COO

The new boss will take the reins at a time of considerable transformation for one of the top U.S. defense contractors.

Northrop Grumman Corp. said operating chief Kathy Warden will take over as CEO next year as Wes Bush prepares to leave the defense giant.

Bush will step down from the chief executive officer role as of Jan. 1 and remain chairman through July 2019, the Falls Church, Virginia-based company said Thursday in a statement. Warden’s appointment comes less than a year after she was named chief operating officer and president.

The new boss will take the reins at a time of considerable transformation for one of the top U.S. defense contractors. Northrop, which recently closed the blockbuster $7.8 billion acquisition of Orbital ATK Inc., is ramping up work on the next U.S. stealth bomber after winning a pivotal 2015 contract that revitalized its prospects and ended speculation of a possible breakup.

Since Bush became CEO in 2010, Northrop’s market value has more than tripled to $56 billion. The shares rose 3.3% to $322.13 at the close in New York.

“The board appreciates the tremendous progress the company has made under Wes’s leadership and we look forward to building on this progress with Kathy as our next CEO,” Don Felsinger, Northrop’s lead independent director, said in the statement.

Warden will join the board immediately, the company said. The executive, who started with Northrop in 2008, ran the mission systems business before being promoted to president. She previously held positions with General Electric Co. and Veridian Corp.

By Richard Clough

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