A most baffling resignation: Why did United Technologies’ stalwart CEO step down?


It was one of the most baffling C-suite resignations in recent memory. At 7 a.m. on Monday, November 24, United Technologies announced that Louis Chenevert, its CEO since April 2008, was stepping down immediately at age 57. His replacement: his long-time CFO Gregory Hayes.

I spent time interviewing Chenevert for a recent story, and everything about him was big. He stands 6’5”; shaking his hand is like clutching an electrode. And he was all about big ideas and super-stretch goals. It was Chenevert who orchestrated the biggest deal in aerospace history, United Technologies’ $16.3 billion acquisition of Goodrich in 2010. By pursuing a deal in a depressed market, he snagged the maker of brakes and landing gear at a bargain price. That merger made United Technologies, which was already a big engine-maker, a full-service manufacturer that provides everything that goes on an airliner, from tail to nose, except avionics.

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