Ex-perm sec Martin Donnelly takes top job at Boeing Europe

Former BIS and DIT permanent secretary will be troubled aerospace giant's "senior representative" in Europe and the UK and Ireland"

Photo: Louise Heywood-Schiefer

Sir Martin Donnelly, former permanent secretary at the business and international trade departments, has been appointed to lead work to expand troubled aerospace giant Boeing’s presence in the UK and Europe.

Donnelly, who was the top civil servant at the Department of International Trade until March 2017, will take up two roles – president of Boeing Europe and managing director of its UK and Ireland division – in July, the company announced yesterday.

As the “senior Boeing representative in Europe and the UK and Ireland”, Donnelly will lead the company’s European strategy and operations, the business said.


In recent months Boeing has been forced to ground its new-generation 737 Max planes following two fatal crashes. Only this week it said new flaws had been found that could affect some 300 aircraft.

Announcing Donnelly's appointment, the business  –  which has its global headquarters in Chicago – added that the former civil servant would coordinate all of the firm's business activities in Europe, the UK and Ireland from the company’s London office.

Nodding towards Donnelly’s “immense experience in British and international government affairs”, the company said his responsibilities would include “strengthened regional alignment and improved operating efficiencies” in Europe. His direct reports will include the leaders six regional divisions: France, Benelux and Nordics, Germany and Central/Eastern Europe, Italy and Southern Europe, and Brussels.

Donnelly was permanent secretary at the then-Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for six years before heading up DIT when it was formed in 2016. His career has also included stints as the Foreign Office’s director general for Europe and globalisation and deputy head of the Cabinet Office’s European secretariat.

Donnelly succeeds the former diplomat Sir Michael Arthur, who became president of Boeing International in March.

Last year the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments – the group that scrutinises applications for former civil servants to take up positions outside government –  gave Donnelly the go-ahead to take up a consultancy position at the City of London Corporation. The role would include “giving internal advice to the corporation on its policy formulation process, and its wider strategic goals in the light of Brexit” to the local authority, according to a letter from the committee.

Because Donnelly left government more than two years ago, he did not need to consult ACOBA before taking up the Boeing roles.

His involvement with the City of London was through the independent consultancy he founded after leaving DIT, MD Global Strategy, which consults on public sector reform and building trade and innovation networks.

Since leaving DIT Donnelly has also taken up trusteeships at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, the charity Gingerbread; a board position at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; and advisory positions at the advisory firms Teneo and Llewellyn Consulting.

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