At the same time, Leonis is not under pressure to immediately improve Litton's performance, some observers said.
"I don't think anybody will say John Leonis will have to show instant results," said William C. Edwards, a Menlo Park venture capitalist who was a director of the "old" Litton before moving to Western Atlas' board. "He'll do well over time."
Leonis, who often leaves work with two briefcases of documents to review overnight, is a Whittier native who graduated from Hamilton High School in Cheviot Hills, a couple of miles south of his current office at Litton's headquarters.
"The home I grew up in is 2 miles from here," said Leonis, whose father was a professional photographer. "It's still in the family. My oldest daughter lives there."
Leonis earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of Arizona in 1959 and went to work for Litton. He has been there ever since except for a brief sojourn to Teledyne Inc. in the late 1960s.
Though his ascent through Litton's ranks went largely unpublicized, it has brought Leonis other comforts, including homes in eastern Ventura County, the desert and the mountains. The locales accommodate Leonis' passion for skiing and hiking.
But he won't have much time to relax. Though not under orders to make a blockbuster acquisition tomorrow, he said his directors "do expect me, and I expect of myself, to make good progress . . . over the next year to 18 months."
Bio: John M. Leonis
* Age: 60
* Birthplace: Whittier
* Education: Hamilton High School in Los Angeles; bachelor's degree, electrical engineering, University of Arizona, 1959
* Family: Married, three children
* Residence: Eastern Ventura County
* Resume: Joined Litton Industries as an engineer in 1959. Named vice president of engineering for guidance and control before being promoted to division president in 1986. Elected corporate vice president in January, 1988, and promoted to group executive of navigation, guidance and control systems two months later. Named senior vice president in 1990. Elected president and chief executive in March, 1994.
* Business strategy: Wants Litton to buy defense-related assets that will enable the company's sales to grow despite continued Pentagon budget cuts.
* Quote: "Through the years in middle management, I kept a low profile. You keep a low profile by running an organization successfully. It doesn't get any attention because of problems."
Litton Industries at a Glance
Litton Industries in March spun off its commercial operations into a new company named Western Atlas, while keeping its defense businesses. Here is a look at the remaining Litton Industries.
Headquarters: Beverly Hills
Sales: $3.5 billion*
Profit: $65.2 million**
Main products: Surface combat ships, including Aegis destroyers; defense electronics, including airborne electronic warfare systems and aircraft navigation systems.
Major plant sites: Pascagoula, Miss. (shipbuilding) and Woodland Hills. (defense electronics).
* Fiscal year ended July 31, 1993
** Includes $107-million charge related to accounting changes.
Source: Litton Industries