Hughes Aircraft President and Chief Operating Officer Donald H. White, 58, will retire on Dec. 1, joining a large number of Hughes executives who have left the company in recent years.
White will not be immediately replaced, the company said, indicating that additional management changes are likely. Hughes Chairman and Chief Executive Malcolm R. Currie said in a statement that White's responsibilities will be taken over by a management committee.
Only last month, retired three-star Gen. James A. Abrahamson was named an executive vice president at the General Motors subsidiary, prompting speculation within Hughes management ranks that he would take over when Currie steps down. Currie is 62 years old, and GM has a policy of having executives retire when they reach 65.
White's departure has been widely expected in the past month, as rumors have circulated within the company that two of the six presidents of Hughes operating groups were preparing to leave, along with one top-level corporate executive other than White.
White said in a telephone interview his retirement is part of a long-standing plan and that he intended to turn his attention to a broad range of personal interests, including golf, hunting, shooting, fishing and classical music.
He added that the decision to leave Hughes was made before Abrahamson arrived. "I discussed this possibility when Mal (Currie) came in here a year and a half ago. This is an appropriate time. We have been going through a lot of changes."
Asked about internal speculation about Abrahamson taking over Hughes, White said: "Abe has only been here a very short time. He is a very capable guy. He has a good future. But I don't know if he is in line to take over the company."
In addition to Abrahamson, Hughes has two other executive vice presidents, D. Kenneth Richardson and Michael T. Smith, who also serves as chief financial officer. Richardson is a Hughes veteran and runs the operating groups, whereas Smith came from GM and continues to have close ties in that organization.