Airbus Group Inc. CEO Sean O'Keefe, left, will step down effective March 1 and be replaced by Allan McArtor, the company announced on Tuesday. O'Keefe, who survived a plane crash in 2010, is leaving to deal with long-term medical issues related to the crash. (Getty Images/Airbus Group)
WASHINGTON — Sean O’Keefe, longtime CEO of the North American arm of Airbus Group, will step down March 1 to deal with medical issues. He will be succeeded by Allan McArtor, currently the chairman of Airbus Americas, the firm announced.
In a statement, O’Keefe said he decided to relinquish his position as CEO of Airbus Group Inc. in order to address ongoing medical issues that stemmed from injuries suffered in a 2010 plane crash, which also took the life of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.
“I have been wrestling with continued medical challenges,” O’Keefe said. “Just recently I underwent another surgical procedure to correct ongoing, but new complications resulting from the aircraft accident in Alaska, which I was fortunate to survive. While the outcome of this latest surgery is positive, it’s evident that the new complications will preclude the devotion of my best efforts to the duties of CEO of Airbus Group, Inc. Following reliable medical advice, it is increasingly apparent that I need to focus on a more aggressive rehabilitation regime.”
O’Keefe won’t fully leave the company, however. In a statement, the company said he will continue “on special assignment to oversee and facilitate the compliant transition of the company’s ongoing security agreement with the Department of Defense to the new US Group structure.”
Over the past several years, O’Keefe had taken a prominent role in the fight to stop the congressionally-mandated budget cuts under sequestration, heading up to Capitol Hill on several occasions to testify forcefully against the cuts.
In the summer and fall of 2012, O’Keefe — who had served in the federal government under both Bush administrations — was also widely considered to be on the short list for another nomination if Mitt Romney won the White House. Last month, O’Keefe was No. 87 on Defense News’ list of the 100 Most Influential People in US Defense for 2013.
O’Keefe was appointed CEO of then-EADS North America in November 2009, and then assumed the additional responsibilities of chairman of the board in January 2011.
“Sean has made significant contributions to the Airbus Group during his tenure as CEO of EADS North America, now Airbus Group, Inc., for which I am extremely grateful” said Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group.
“These included leading the company during the tanker replacement competition, increasing our reputation with the US government and expanding our market presence in North America. I am pleased he stays with us for a while on special assignment and I wish him all the best for his medical recovery,” he added.
Enders also praised McArtor’s 13 years of service to the company, saying that “his previous government and private sector experience will be an invaluable asset to Airbus Group.”
McArtor’s current division, Airbus Americas, is Airbus Group’s commercial aircraft sector in North and South America.
Before coming aboard in 2001, McArtor — a 1964 Air Force Academy graduate and Thunderbirds pilot — led the Federal Aviation Administration, was founder and CEO of Legend Airlines and a senior member of the FedEx executive team.
“Allan’s extensive public and private sector experiences, particularly in his present capacity as a leader of the Airbus commercial enterprise in the Americas, make him ideally suited to assure a seamless transition,” O’Keefe said. “His insightful perspective on the commercial and government markets uniquely equip him to lead and support the Airbus Group’s enterprise in the US and Americas. I look forward to serving with him as we move forward to achieve this important organizational transformation.” ■