GKN drops incoming chief executive before he takes up role

The chief executive designate of GKN has been ousted from the FTSE 100 company weeks before he was due to take up the top job at the aerospace and engineering firm.

Kevin Cummings, whose appointment was announced in September, had been due to take over from chief executive Nigel Stein on 1 January, but will now leave the board and the company immediately, the firm said.

GKN shares tumbled by 9% as the shock announcement was accompanied by news of a further writedown at its North American aerospace division, which was run by Cummings.

Non-executive director Anne Stevens, a former senior executive at the US carmaker Ford, will become interim chief executive from January and until then Stein will continue to run the company.

GKN, which makes wing components for Airbus near Bristol, concluded that the “next stage of GKN’s development is best delivered under alternative leadership”. It declined to say whether Cummings would get a payoff. He was paid £1.38m last year, including a basic salary of £505,000.

The company has been reviewing its aerospace factories in North America and while the review is not yet complete, it now says it is likely to result in a further writedown of £80m to £130m as the value of stocks had been overestimated. The biggest factory, in St Louis, makes air frames for F-15 and F/A-18 fighter jets.

The company had already identified problems at its Alabama factory, taking a £15m charge after revising down the value of inventory, when it issued a profit warning last month.

Cummings joined GKN’s aerospace division in North America in 2008 and became head of the entire aerospace business in January 2014.

Hans Büthker, the former chief executive of Fokker Technologies, which GKN acquired in 2015, becomes the new head of its aerospace unit immediately, faster than planned. It is GKN’s second big boardroom shake-up since September.

In the UK, GKN has closed its Yeovil factory where 221 people worked on making airframes for Royal Navy helicopters.