Greg Smith

In a surprise move, Boeing said Tuesday that CFO Greg Smith had decided to retire after helping guide the company through the twin crises of the 737 Max grounding and the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith, a 30-year Boeing veteran, had occupied the CFO seat for a decade, taking over as interim chief executive following the ouster of then-CEO Dennis Muilenburg in late 2019. His retirement will become effective on July 9.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Smith, 54, was “deeply involved in Boeing’s efforts to return the 737 MAX, a top moneymaker, to service and borrow billions of dollars to aid the company as the pandemic worsened.”

The current CEO, David Calhoun, said Smith’s financial stewardship and “leadership during the severe challenge our industry has faced as a result of the global pandemic, have been essential to positioning Boeing for a bright future.”

“As part of these efforts, he led the largest bond offering in the company’s history and launched a comprehensive transformation program that will leave our business stronger and more resilient,” he added in a news release.

On news of Smith’s departure, Boeing shares fell 4.1% to $234.06 in trading Tuesday.

“Greg had a solid connection with the investment community,” Hunter Keay, a managing director at Wolfe Research, told the Journal. “A lot of investors really believed that Greg had their back.”

Smith was named Boeing’s CFO in 2011 after previously serving as corporate controller and vice president of finance. As finance chief, he amassed such a broad array of responsibilities, including oversight of enterprise operations, sustainability, performance and strategy, that investors saw him as effectively running the company.

The $25 billion bond offering in May 2020 was a record for the aviation industry. “This was probably one of the most important capital raises during the company’s history,” said Burkett Huey, an equity analyst at Morningstar Research Services. “Today, Boeing has the cash to survive the pandemic.”

Citing people close to Boeing and analysts, the Journal said that finding a successor to Smith “after his unexpected departure might be tough.”

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