CEO of BAE Systems Ian King attends a ceremony on November 5, 2014 at Dassault Aviation headquarters in Saint-Cloud, suburbs of Paris. Dassault Aviation, BAE Systems and their industrial partners have been awarded a contract by the French and British governments for a two year co-operative Future Combat Air System (FCAS) Feasibility Phase study, formally signaling the start of work, Dassault Aviation and BEA Systems said. AFP PHOTO ERIC PIERMONT
LONDON — BAE Systems has sought approval from the British government to appoint a foreign chief executive, according to media reports here.
The reports said British Defence Secretary Michaeeal Fallon and Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood had in recent months been asked whether the government would support such a move in any future management change.
Fallon and Heywood apparently were understood to have been receptive to the idea, but that Prime Minister David Cameron was lukewarm on national security grounds, said the Sunday Times.
A spokeswomaen for BAE said the company would not go be going into the details of what it may or may not have discussed with the UK government.
One company insider sought to play down the move, saying it was not a signal that BAE is planning a change of CEO but rather a the normal business activity of testing the parameters from time to time as part of the planning process.
Others, though, are not so sure if this was just a routine exercise, although one analyst said any imminent change at the top of BAE is unlikely.
Ian King has been CEO of the company since 2008, having previously been the chief operating officer.
A golden share arrangement between the government and Rolls-Royce was relaxed in 2011 when the engine builder won approval was approved to alter its articles of association to allow either a chairman or CEO to be a foreign national. It's possible BAE may be looking for a similar dispensation.
Any changes at BAE would likely involve the appointment of a US national. A significant part of its revenues are generated by it's Virginia-based business and it has a sizable number of US shareholders.
At present, the golden share rules mean BAE's hands are tied and with the CEO and chairman both have to be British.
The government holds a golden share in BAE, giving it control over certain strategic decisions such as like the appointment of a foreign CEO or a merger.