08 Jan 16. The announcement in November last year that Stephen Ball would step as CEO of Lockheed Martin UK in January 2016 has marked the end of a fascinating era of development and growth for the company that has been an absolute pleasure to watch. No one, and I really mean that, could have asked more of any divisional CEO and one that in this case happens to be the company’s largest overseas based operating unit. And I very much doubt that there was anyone better prepared to achieve what was required than Stephen Ball.
Having closely observed the exciting growth path and substantial number of changes that have occurred under the stewardship of Stephen Ball since his appointment as CEO of UK based Lockheed Martin operations was announced in March 2009 the best thing that I can say is that it has genuinely been an absolute pleasure to watch.
Peter Ruddock who I have had the great pleasure of knowing for many years both in his earlier Royal Air Force career and more recently during his time at Lockheed Martin, took over the reins of Lockheed Martin UK at the beginning of this week. I may be biased but please believe me when I say that I cannot imagine anyone better placed to take over the UK Lockheed Martin operation and take it to even higher levels than Peter Ruddock.
For the record, having joined Lockheed Martin in 2011 following a long military career served in the Royal Air Force where he retired as an Air Marshal having undertaken a variety of positions including Personnel Director, Commander of the UK Air Component for both Iraq and Afghanistan and ending his service career as Director General Saudi Armed Forces Projects, . I wish Peter Ruddock well and, just as I have done through the periods in office of three of his predecessors, I look forward to observing even more growth.
As Peter Ruddock had himself said at the time of the announcement of CEO change, “under Stephen’s direction, Lockheed Martin UK has brought a world of innovation to the UK, not only in security and aerospace sectors but also in commercial activities including postal distribution, air traffic management and cyber security”.
The addition and growth attained by all these subsidiary activities be these by acquisitions such as Amor Group in 2013 (a company specialising in information technology civil government services and the energy market) or through internally led growth and development show not only what a fantastic job that Stephen Ball and his team have done but they emphasise how the US parent company has been prepared to encourage investment in its UK operation.
Today the London headquartered Lockheed Martin UK operation employs more than 3,000 people across 21 UK sites engaged in research, design, development, manufacturing, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. With annual sales for 2014 of $1.3 billion suffice to say that under Stephen Ball’s leadership compound sales growth for the UK based operations has been a whopping 14% per annum. Better still is that there is absolutely no reason to doubt that similar levels of growth will be achieved over the next two or three years as well. For Lockheed Martin as a group the UK represents the number one in terms of sales outside the US.
While Stephen Ball, an engineer and also son of an engineer, has worked across a spectrum of business. Commerce and government throughout his career engineering lies at the heart of his thinking. Take the Lockheed Martin ‘Seabed Resources’ subsidiary that in partnership with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has obtained a licence and contract to explore a 58,000 square kilometre area of the Pacific Ocean for mineral-rich polymetallic ‘nodules’. These are rocky chunks, about the size of a tennis ball, that will eventually be scooped up using a seabed harvester and then, hopefully, broken up to release the various rare earth minerals. This is a highly complex engineering based area and as Stephen Ball noted in 2013 at the time of the launch announcement, must be achieved in an environmentally responsible manner. It is also an area that the UK government believes that because of the work that Lockheed Martin UK has done could be worth £40bn to the UK economy over the next 30 years.
As a systems integrator and a big supplier to the UK Ministry of Defence Lockheed Martin is in a unique place. Currently responsible for manufacturing the gun turret that will go on the new Ajax vehicle for the British Army and also a large part of the Warrior upgrade the company has also been responsible for upgrading the fleet of EH101 Merlin Helicopters for the Royal Navy.
How nice it was too that almost on his last day that with SDSR 2015 having decided that the bulk of Royal Air Force C130J medium lift aircraft would be retained that the MOD chose to award the UK C-130 support contract to Lockheed Martin UK. This was a very way for Stephen Ball to bow out and for Peter Ruddock to take over.
I doubt that we have heard the last from Stephen Ball and my hunch is that if there is an engineering project that needs help he will be there. A quiet and unassuming man he may have been and unusual in the context of large company UK CEO’s. But a brilliant leader he has undoubtedly been and one who not only respected all the people that worked for the company but that understood what each of them did and how important they were. Lockheed Martin UK is without doubt stronger for the work that Stephen Ball has done just as it is leaner and fitter.
In wishing the outgoing CEO well in whatever he might do in the future or in retirement I know how delighted he will have been that Peter Ruddock was given the challenge to continue growing and developing Lockheed Martin UK in the years to come. Knowing him as I do, he is as I suggest more than up to that task.
CHW (London 8th January 2016)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS