If there were ever a good corporate soldier, James Bell is it. As interim chief executive at Boeing following Harry Stonecipher's sudden...

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If there were ever a good corporate soldier, James Bell is it.

As interim chief executive at Boeing following Harry Stonecipher’s sudden departure, he is young enough and has earned enough respect from Wall Street to aspire to the permanent CEO role.

But Bell, 56, agreed when he took the interim position he would not be a candidate for CEO.

“He’s not interested in it,” said Boeing spokeswoman Anne Eisele.

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Unlike Boeing’s previous chief financial officer, Michael Sears, Bell has spent most of his 32-year career with Rockwell and Boeing in financial positions.

“Bell’s name had been passed around in the past” as a potential CEO, said J.B. Groh, an aerospace analyst at D.A. Davidson in Lake Oswego, Ore.

James Bell


Bachelor’s degree in accounting from California State University at Los Angeles.

Joined Rockwell in 1972 and rose through the company, whose aerospace and defense units merged with Boeing in 1996. Before becoming Boeing’s chief financial officer in 2003, he was senior vice president of finance and corporate controller.

Sits on the boards of the Joffrey Ballet, Chicago Urban League, World Business Chicago and New Leaders for New Schools.

Source: Boeing

“He’s very well-respected by the Street, and he’s done a fine job in terms of running the financial side of the company.”

But Boeing’s board wants someone with more operational experience than Bell to run the company full time.

“We’ll be looking for someone with significant operating experience and broad experience as a senior leader of a large company,” Boeing Chairman Lewis Platt said yesterday during a conference call.

Bell joined Rockwell in 1972 and came to Boeing in 1996, when it acquired Rockwell’s aerospace and defense businesses.

For four years before the merger, he was director of business management for the international space station.

For four years after the merger, he was vice president of contracts and pricing for Boeing Space and Communications.

In 2000, Bell became senior vice president of finance and corporate controller.

He was promoted to CFO when Sears was fired in 2003 amid the Air Force tanker-contract scandal.

“He’s a very solid CFO,” said George Shapiro, aerospace analyst with Smith Barney.

“He’s a very personable guy, a very straight shooter, and very good at answering detailed questions.”

Bell’s predecessor, Sears, was an engineer by training who was once considered a contender for the top job at Boeing.

He was fired in December 2003 in a scandal over the hiring of Air Force procurement official Darleen Druyun.

Last month, Sears was sentenced to four months in prison for illegally negotiating a job for Druyun while she still oversaw Air Force contracts with Boeing.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com