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Boeing board blocks shareholder push to bring HQ back to Seattle

Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

Boeing's board has killed a longshot shareholder proposal that the company move its headquarters back to Seattle.

The proposal was put forward to be voted on this spring at Boeing's annual general meeting by 83-year-old Walter Ryan, a retired Chicago business owner, corporate gadfly and stock market investor who owns 10,000 shares in the company.

But a Securities and Exchange Commission ruling last week means shareholders won't get to vote on his proposal. With SEC approval, Boeing's board won't put it on the ballot.

Ryan bought the shares in December 2019, right after the first 737 MAX crash in Indonesia, when the stock was priced at just under $337. He assumed Boeing would quickly recover, "the stock would go up, and they'd correct all their problems," he said in an interview. "I was wrong."

Boeing stock today is hovering around $200, his investment down more than 40%.

"It's a shame that they took a company that was a first-class operation and drove it into the ground," Ryan said.

 

Seeking the starting point for that downward arc, Ryan fixed upon the physical relocation in 2001 of Boeing's world headquarters from Seattle, where the jets are designed and built, to Chicago. Boeing in 2022 then moved the headquarters again, this time to northern Virginia.

Ryan proposed to begin to reverse the decline by bringing the top leadership back to Seattle.

But, in response to a request for clarification from Boeing corporate secretary John Demers, the SEC ruled Wednesday that the board is entitled to omit Ryan's proposal from the shareholder ballot.

Essentially, the SEC agreed with Boeing that forcing it to relocate the headquarters would be improper interference with management's prerogatives.

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