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Tuesday, December 02, 2003 - Page updated at 12:45 A.M.

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Reactions to today's announcement

By Tricia Duryee, Jane Hodges, Kristina Shevory and Sarah Anne Wright
Seattle Times business reporters

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Reaction was swift and strong to this morning's news about the resignation of Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Phil Condit and bringing back Harry Stonecipher to replace him. Below are reactions from some Boeing employees, ex-employees and others.

'Everyone is in shock'

RENTON — Many Boeing employees at the Renton plant this morning were surprised to hear of Condit's resignation and expressed concern about their future with the company.

"Everyone is in shock right now," said Michael Richner, an electrician who was interviewed on his way into the Renton plant where he has worked for 25 years. "It just doesn't seem like the same place anymore. Now we're an entity in the Boeing structure. Before we were the crown jewel."

"That's the end of Boeing, ever since we bought McDonnell Douglas, the company has gone downhill," said David Anderson, a longtime Boeing employee and mechanic on the 757 line, which is being shut down next year due to a lack of orders.

Many believed that the announcement wasn't good for employees. Scott Wilson, a fuel-tank sealer on the 737 line, was on a coffee break and heard the news about Condit's resignation from a reporter. His first response: "I hope he takes Harry Stonecipher with him." After being told that Stonecipher was Condit's replacement, he said: "I don't think anyone will be happy to hear that Harry's taking over."

A number of workers, who declined to be interviewed, said Stonecipher's nickname is "Harry the hatchet" for his reputation in dealing with employees.

'There's a cloud' over Boeing

Ron Woodard, the former president of Boeing's commercial-airplane division, said that the company's poor performance since Condit's appointment and its recent troubles with the government are the main reasons why Condit has resigned.

"Obviously there's a cloud over the integrity of their dealings with a bunch of government entities. That seems to be the major thing," said Woodard, who is now chairman of Seattle-based MagnaDrive, a Seattle maker of power-transfer equipment, which he co-founded after his 1999 departure from Boeing.

"I think the performance of the company under his leadership wasn't stellar if you look at the market (capitalization of the company) over the whole time. And, an obvious concern is the ongoing business practices and scandals that have happened."

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Woodard praised Stonecipher's leadership skills. "I'm sure, he'll do a good job getting the stock higher and doing the thing he does best. He did well by McDonnell Douglas when he was there. He has to focus on costs and growth and shareholder value. He's a well-trained very experienced guy."

'Profound sense of distrust'

But others said they felt uncomfortable with Stonecipher taking the controls of Boeing.

"I'm really amazed, it's like the McDonnell Douglas transformation is complete now. I'm not looking forward to what Stonecipher will do for the company," said Ben Smith, a former mechanical engineer who worked on the 737 and 757 flight-control systems at Boeing who left in May 2000 to start Cadence Winery in Seattle. "Judging from his past performance at McDonnell Douglas, I'm not sure he can do the job or how he can motivate the engineers. ... There is a profound sense of distrust between the engineering community and Stonecipher."

Everett 767 line 'in jeopardy'

Tim Raetzloff is an Edmonds computer-store owner who tracks the market capitalization of local companies and has been a critic of Boeing management. In a statement he released today, Raetzloff said that Condit's resignation is not good news for Boeing or the region.

"The appointment of Harry Stonecipher is a step backwards. Mr. Stonecipher said that Boeing has thousands of talented employees. At least he got that right. Mr. Condit talked about the great accomplishments of Boeing. He got that right also," Raetzloff said, but added:

"The Senate investigation (into the Air Force tanker deal) will now be even more thorough, and nearly certain to take a year or more. That puts the Everett 767 production line in jeopardy. Unless Boeing gets new 767 orders between now and the end of 2004, it may be impossible to keep production going long enough for the tanker contract to begin. If the Air Force really needs tankers, the planes ordered may not be 767s. ... Boeing may finally get the contract because there are few alternatives, so the company may not ultimately suffer at all; but, for the workers on the 767 production line, that determination may not come soon enough to save their jobs."

'Going down the tubes'

EVERETT — Workers outside the International Association of Machinists District 751 local office in Everett said they don't think that Condit's departure will improve a workplace where morale and job security have steadily deteriorated over the years.

"I see the company going down the tubes," said Connie Miller, an electrician who has worked at Boeing for 15 years. "The way you carry yourself at work has changed. It's not like it used to be."

Added Randy Miles, a 46-year-old electrician who works on the 777 line in Everett: "It looks like we bought McDonnell Douglas, but it also looks like McDonnell Douglas is running Boeing."

Miles, who has been with the company for 12 years, said he'd like to believe new leadership would mean a brighter future for Boeing, but added he's not sure that that's going to happen under Stonecipher.

"I think he's outdated with how business needs to go these days," Miles said. "I haven't felt for the last eight years or so that any of the upper 2 percent of this company has treated their people very well."


Readers respond: 'Condit's resignation is most welcome'

We asked readers: "What do you think Phil Condit's legacy at Boeing will be? What will he be remembered for from his 38 years with the company?" Here's a sample of the responses, many from Boeing employees or ex-Boeing employees:

"I am a native Seattleite and have witnessed firsthand the decline of a company that has played, for so many years, a defining role in this region. ... They have squandered their role as world leader in airplane manufacturing, space development, and quality. They have also squandered their credibility, not only with the people that have made Boeing great, namely the people that build the products, but with its customers as well. News of Condit's resignation is most welcome."

— Christopher Taylor
Kenmore, WA


He led the company through some of its most challenging years — the beginnings of the "globalizaiton" of The Boeing Company- labor strife, worldwide economic downturns, threats from overseas competitors and demands from customer countries to share in the development and production of the planes they buy. An amazing leader in our local philanthropic community — and my hope and every expectation is that Phil will continue to utilize his skills and resources to make our community one that we are proud to call our home.

— David Kageyama
Seattle, WA


"As a Boeing retiree myself, I think that Condit will be remembered as a leader who has permanently damaged this company for whom I worked as long as he did. Instead of keeping his focus on its core business and staying No. 1 in that field he tried to make the company too much too soon."

— Merv Skoglun
Cashmere, WA


"Say what you want about him ... the good and the bad, but the company went downhill on his watch. That's how I'll remember him."

— Tom Grader, Boeing employee
Auburn, WA


"He never should have allowed Boeing to get involved with the acquisition of McDonnell Douglas."

— Greg Tutmark
Lynnwood, WA


"Phil 'Vaporman' Condit will be remembered as the man who sold Boeing down the river. What an ineffective leader he has been. He has effectively turned the reins over to McDonnell Douglas, so they can repeat their previous financial magic with The Boeing Co. Morale will plummet in the short term. Look for Boeing to spiral into the ground over the next five years and for the parts to be sold off at bargain basement prices. Can you say Wal-Mart Airplane Company?"

— Tom Byrnes, Boeing employee
Kent, WA


"I don't think Condit did that bad of a job. I like to think that he kept a bad situation from getting worse. Boeing was in bad shape when he took over (as CEO) in 1996, and with a company as large as Boeing, you don't make overnight reforms. Right now is just about the worst time ever to be doing just about anything in the aerospace industry. Let's hope Stonecipher doesn't stop any forward momentum that Condit was able to gain."

— Joshua Abell, Boeing employee
Mesa, AZ


"(Condit) will be the man remembered for buying McDonnell Douglas ... and all but ruining The Boeing Co. (Stonecipher's) got great chops but as far as how he runs the company, he's going to just alienate the engineers and run it right back into the ground."

— Patrick Olsen, former Boeing employee
Lynnwood, WA


"I think I'll remember him as the man who continually laid off people and the negative impact that had on thousands."

— Diana Ellis
Port Orchard, WA


"What I will remember is how Boeing changed from being a Northwest staple to a faceless corporation. Once upon a time, Boeing was Seattle, and Seattle was the heart of Boeing. Under Condit, those ties were lost. Condit's legacy will be that he turned an icon into just another struggling corporation."

— Aaron Whiteman
Pullman, WA


"Phil will be known to some as the man who sold Boeing out and moved it to Chicago, even though Harry Stonecipher was the one who really helped do it. And sadly he will be remembered for the man who left Boeing when we really needed him the most."

— Don Marable
Marysville, WA


"The end is near for Boeing here. I only wish Alan Mulally would leave also."

— Dan Heric
Kent, WA


"Condit will forever be remembered as the man who moved Boeing out of Seattle to Chicago. His leadership (or lack of it) drove poor decision making. Good riddance. For the sake of Boeing and Seattle, I only hope that Stonecipher can right the ship. If he fails, Airbus will gain market share that Boeing can ill afford to lose."

— Craig Pedersen
Columbus, Ohio


"Very smart engineer, very poor executive. He was played like a drum by McDonnell Douglas executives ... who are now running Boeing. Should be interesting when he crawls back from Chicago acting like the long-lost son. ... I am a Boeing employee of 26 years and counting. ... I do not like 'Stoney,' but at least he got rid of half of the corporate bloat today, eliminating a bunch of unnecessary senior VPs with huge salaries."

— Don Mercer
Bothell, WA

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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