The executive chairman of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. plans to install the jet maker’s former head of operations as its new chief executive officer if he wins a board majority, according to people familiar with the matter.
It’s the latest development in the boardroom battle between Warren Lichtenstein, an activist investor and Aerojet’s executive chairman, and current CEO Eileen Drake. Lichtenstein, who with affiliates owns about 5.2% of the company’s shares, has nominated seven directors in hopes of taking control of the board and changing its strategic direction. His plan includes replacing Drake with Mark Tucker, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.
Tucker served in various roles at Aerojet before becoming its chief operating officer in 2015. He retired in May 2020 and was replaced in the role by Amy Gowder, who subsequently left the company this year to head up GE Aviation LLC.
A representative for Lichtenstein declined to comment. A representative for Aerojet wasn’t immediately available for comment.
It’s the latest twist in the tense standoff between Lichtenstein and Drake after Aerojet’s $4.4 billion merger with Lockheed Martin Corp. collapsed. The fight has spilled into public view, with each side issuing statements to discredit the other as they seek shareholder support for control of the company’s board.
Drake and Lichtenstein have sued each other in Delaware in the lead-up to the proxy fight. Lichtenstein demanded the CEO look for alternate bidders to Lockheed, while Drake had threatened to quit and take her management team with her.
This month, a board committee looking into the dispute concluded in a memorandum that Lichtenstein hadn’t harassed or retaliated against Drake and other members of the executive committee in numerous communications before and after the Lockheed deal was announced and then collapsed.
Lichtenstein was reprimanded, though, for talking to external parties about his concerns around the merger and Drake’s performance, and for approaching at least two people about their interest in becoming CEO if the Lockheed deal fell apart. The committee noted Lichtenstein wasn’t authorized to do so.
The board committee ordered Lichtenstein not to make any further statements to external parties about Drake, a CEO search, or any other succession or strategic planning matters.