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Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens to retire in December

Robert Stevens was widely credited with helping Lockheed emerge from a tangle of mergers in the late 1990s.

Lockheed Martin said Thursday that its chief executive, Robert J. Stevens, will retire in December after eight years in the job. His successor will be Christopher E. Kubasik, Lockheed’s president and chief operating officer.

Lockheed, the world’s largest military company, had begun setting the stage for the transition more than two years ago, when Kubasik was promoted to his current jobs.

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If shareholders and the board approve, Stevens, who is also the chairman, will remain in that role through January 2014.

Like other military contractors, Lockheed is dealing with cuts in military budgets after nearly a decade of flush times. Stevens, who is 60, said Thursday that the company had been adjusting to “this new reality’’ for several years and would continue to do so.

In addition to serving as chief executive since 2004, Stevens was the president and chief operating officer for four years, and he was widely credited with helping Lockheed emerge from a difficult tangle of mergers when he was the chief financial officer in the late 1990s.

“By any measure, that’s a full period,’’ he told reporters on a conference call. “I believe that a longer-cycle transition ensures a more complete transition.’’

The company said its board also elected Marillyn A. Hewson, 58, to succeed Kubasik, 51, as president and chief operating officer. Hewson has been an executive vice president in charge of the company’s electronic-systems businesses since January 2010.

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Robert Stallard, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, wrote Thursday in a note to clients that investors “had long suspected that Mr. Kubasik would be stepping into the CEO role after Mr. Stevens, and therefore in our view, this should be greeted positively.’’

Lockheed Martin also said Thursday that its first-quarter net income rose to $668 million, or $2.03 a share, from $530 million, or $1.50 a share. Sales increased to $11.29 billion from $10.63 billion.

Stevens also said he was disappointed that 3,600 union workers had gone on strike Monday at the company’s plant in Fort Worth, which makes the new F-35 fighter jet.

The workers, members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, objected to the company’s plans to eliminate traditional pension plans for any newly hired workers and place them only in 401(k)-type plans.

Kubasik said Lockheed had made a similar change for all managers hired since 2006. Lockheed also offered the union workers pay raises of 3 percent a year for each of the next three years and $3,000 signing bonuses.

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