Boeing restructures global comms as veteran Charlie Miller departs

Boeing’s vice-president of international communications, Charlie Miller, has retired after nearly two decades with the aerospace company. The global comms function has been restructured with international comms under the leadership of Gordon Johndroe following the departure of SVP of comms Niel Golightly.

Boeing's Charlie Miller (L) has departed; Gordon Johndroe (R) takes the helm of global comms
Boeing's Charlie Miller (L) has departed; Gordon Johndroe (R) takes the helm of global comms

Charlie Miller, who has been responsible for Boeing’s international communications since 2008, has retired.

His role will not be replaced due to a restructure that brings the international communications team together with media relations and public affairs under the leadership of Gordon Johndroe, Boeing’s recently appointed VP of global media relations and public affairs.

In another major move, Niel Golightly, who was appointed SVP of communications in January to replace Anne Toulouse, suddenly left Boeing in July after seven months in the role.

In a statement on LinkedIn, Miller said: “From the newsroom table and typewriter to the corner office in Corporate America, it's been a 42-year journey of rich discovery and gainful employment around the world. Today I started the latest leg, waking up gently to my first day of – at least partial – retirement.”

The comms veteran said he is excited by “many opportunities and plans” that he is pursuing in retirement, but would miss "the incredible group of people I've had the privilege to lead and the many more I've worked alongside at Boeing”.

“The pride and the passion that I saw every day inspired me to become a better leader and a better person throughout my 19 years at the company,” Miller added.

“It was always a dream to be part of a company that works to improve the world by building security, by connecting people and businesses around the globe, by developing space exploration, and by nurturing the imagination of those who will carry the torch tomorrow. Boeing enabled me to live that dream. I am forever grateful.”

Miller forged a successful career as a Press Association journalist before taking control of the corporate media relations cockpit at BAE Systems.

He joined Boeing in 2001 as its first communications director for the UK and Ireland, before rising to become the company's first regional communications director for EMEA in 2003.

Miller took the helm of the full international communications team in late 2008 and moved to Chicago in 2013. 

Miller's legacy

Boeing’s CFO, interim comms leader and executive VP of Enterprise Operations, Greg Smith, told PRWeek that Boeing and its leadership have “benefited greatly from Charlie’s consistent professionalism, thoughtful counsel and passionate global advocacy”.

“In the 19 years he has been at Boeing, Charlie has helped expand the company’s global communications footprint from the fledgling organisation it was then to the team we have today, which actively supports the company’s activities in all of our key markets around the world. Their success is testament to Charlie’s drive, determination and leadership.” 

Smith confirmed the international communications team will join media relations and public affairs in a restructure that places all three divisions under Johndroe’s leadership.

“[He] will continue working to develop and mature our 24/7 communications capability and global approach,” Smith added.

Johndroe was appointed vice-president of global media relations and public affairs this month. He is responsible for teams in regional financial hubs in the US and around the world. This includes Miller's former division, International Communications, in addition to oversight of global media relations (which is led by Bradley Akubuiro) and global public affairs (which is led by Betsy Stewart).

Boeing said these teams will serve as a lead voice for the business when engaging with media outlets and will lead public policy communications in support of global government relations efforts and comms for the company’s charitable giving organisation, Boeing Global Engagement.

The restructure comes at a difficult time for Boeing and the wider aerospace industry, which has been severely affected by the global coronavirus crisis. Boeing had already made several changes to its comms leadership prior to the pandemic in the wake of the Air Max 737 crisis and how it handled comms.

This includes the now departed Golightly taking over from Toulouse earlier this year, and Conrad Chun taking over for Mills as VP of comms for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in November 2019.

Golightly resigned as Boeing’s top communications executive early July after an article he wrote in 1987 while in the US Navy about the fitness of women to serve in combat resurfaced in an employee complaint.

Johndroe will now steer global comms for the business as it navigates turbulent and uncertain trading conditions.

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