Northrop Grumman Corp., the world's largest builder of warships, said Thursday that Thomas Schievelbein, president of its Newport News shipyard in Virginia, would take early retirement to spend more time with his wife and to pursue personal interests.
Schievelbein, 51, will be replaced Nov. 1 by C. Michael Petters, 44, now vice president of human resources, administration and trade at Newport News, Century City-based Northrop said.
Schievelbein helped lead the integration of the shipyard with the rest of the company after Northrop purchased Newport News Shipbuilding Inc. for $2.6 billion in 2002. Northrop won Pentagon and Justice Department approval for the purchase with promises to lower costs at the yard. The facility was criticized by the Navy last month for rising costs on the newest class of nuclear-powered submarines.
"I just decided it was time to let somebody else have a chance to do it," Schievelbein said. "Obviously, there will be some people that say it's something with the submarines, and that certainly is not the case."
Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said there was "absolutely no connection" between cost increases in the Virginia-class submarine program and Schievelbein's departure.
Petters joined Newport News in 1987 in the submarine construction division. He holds a bachelor's degree in physics from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master's in business administration from the College of William and Mary.
"Petters is the logical choice to replace [Schievelbein] because of his vast experience," Belote said.
Schievelbein's retirement is a surprise to the investment community, which could cause some concern, said Eric Hugel, an analyst at investment banking firm Stephens Inc. in New York. He rates Northrop's shares "overweight" and doesn't own them.
"There's always concern when the leader of a business segment turns over that there is a reason why," Hugel said. "You never know."
Northrop shares rose 49 cents to $52.29 on the New York Stock Exchange.