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B/E’s top local official named co-CEO

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The newest office space for B/E Aerospace is at 190 Oak Plaza Boulevard.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Werner Lieberherr, the top management official for the local B/E Aerospace Inc. operations, will become co-chief executive on Jan. 1, the company announced Friday.

B/E, based in Wellington, Fla., has its largest U.S. operation in Winston-Salem with more than 1,100 workers focused on its commercial aircraft segment, such as seating and galleys. That makes the company Forsyth County’s ninth-largest private employer and third-largest manufacturer, according to Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce data.

Lieberherr will share the role with Amin Khoury, B/E’s founder and chairman. Lieberherr currently serves as president and chief operating officer. He was appointed to those roles Dec. 31, 2010, and has been with B/E since 2006.

“Werner is a highly effective leader and is well-respected internally and throughout the industry,” Khoury said in a statement. “He has made numerous important contributions and has played a significant role in the success of B/E Aerospace. He has been an exceptional leader who has contributed substantially to our competitive position, standing with our customers and our operational effectiveness.”

Lieberherr said his main focus in his new role will be sustaining B/E’s recent strong operational and financial performances.

On Wednesday, the company reported a more than fourfold increase in third-quarter profit to $92.7 million.

The main reason for the profit increase year over year is that B/E paid $82.1 million in debt prepayment costs during the third quarter of 2012. The company is capitalizing on low interest rates to refinance or pay off debt.

B/E’s fiscal 2013 performance to date is boding well for shareholders and employees for fiscal 2014, as well.

The company’s management issued earnings guidance for fiscal 2014 of $4.25 a share. The forecast for fiscal 2013 is $3.50 a share, which in itself would be up 24 percent compared with fiscal 2012.

“B/E Aerospace enjoys a very solid foundation on which to build future success,” Lieberherr said.

Lieberherr received a 12 percent raise in salary to $611,077 for fiscal 2012. He received $1.37 million in non-equity incentive-plan compensation, $155,601 in all other compensation, and restricted stock from the company valued at $1.56 million on the date the award was granted.

By comparison, Khoury received a 4 percent raise in salary for the second consecutive year to $1.18 million in 2012. His total compensation was up 12 percent again, this time to $11.8 million.

Like R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Hanes decades before it, B/E has brought an international corporate flair to Winston-Salem.

Nearly every week, officials from a global airline come to test new seating and other cabin-interior designs and products made by the company, a high-efficiency designer and manufacturer of new and retrofitted cabin interiors for commercial aircraft and business jets.

But despite its high profile within the aerospace industry, B/E has maintained a low profile in Winston-Salem, so much so that its 2012 major expansion into a 90,000-square-foot building at 190 Oak Plaza Blvd. in the northwest part of town barely registered as a blip on the community’s radar screen.

“We don’t have a problem with the brand not being recognized prominently locally. We’re not a true retail brand,” Lieberherr said in a November 2012 interview. “We are well known by our customers because of the value we add to their aircraft.

“Still, clearly, Winston-Salem is an important piece of the puzzle for B/E Aerospace. We made a long-term investment in this building.”

By Richard Craver/Winston-Salem Journal