ROME — The Italian government nominated Roberto Cingolani as the new CEO of state-controlled defense giant Leonardo on Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation over who would take over from incumbent Alessandro Profumo.
The naming of Cingolani, 61, was part of a sweep of new hires by the government at key state controlled firms and coincided with the end of Profumo’s second mandate at the helm of Leonardo.
Former NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan Stefano Pontecorvo will be the new Leonardo chairman.
The appointments must now be formally approved by shareholders. A trained physicist, Cingolani initially joined Leonardo in 2019, becoming chief technology and innovation officer and spearheading cyber and AI programs before he was named Italy’s ‘green transition’ minister in 2021 by former Italian prime minister Mario Draghi.
When Draghi’s government fell last year to be replaced at September elections by a coalition led by incoming prime minister Giorgia Meloni, Cingolani was asked stay on as an energy advisor to the new government, a role he has combined with rejoining Leonardo to work on space programs.
His appointment will likely see Leonardo continue its focus on cybersecurity programs. Cingolani was favored for the CEO job by prime minister Meloni despite her defense minister Guido Crosetto pushing for the appointment of Lorenzo Mariani, the head of Italian operations of MBDA, the European missile firm in which Leonardo has a stake.
While industry insiders said Cingolani had the vision required to run a global firm, Mariani was seen as having better inside knowledge of the company and able to step into the role faster after having already run a European defense firm.
Outgoing CEO Profumo worked in banking before he took over Leonardo in2017 from Mauro Moretti, who had previously run Italy’s rail network.
Both men needed time to learn the ropes at Leonardo.
After six years on the job, Profumo is bequeathing Cingolani a firm indecent financial shape after its new orders rose 21 percent year on year to 17.266 billion euros last year, beating its forecast of €16 billion, or $17.6 billion.
Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.