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Marillyn Hewson has been tapped to become Lockheed Martin’s chief executive officer, starting Jan. 1.

LUKE MACGREGOR/Reuters

Lockheed Martin Corp. on Friday fired its incoming chief executive officer Christopher Kubasik after he admitted to an improper relationship with a subordinate, and it appointed Marillyn Hewson to replace him.

Mr. Kubasik, who was the defence contractor's president and chief operating officer, had been slated to become CEO in January, replacing Bob Stevens.

During a special session on Friday, the company's board named Marillyn Hewson, 58, to replace Mr. Kubasik as president and chief operating officer immediately. She was also elected to succeed Mr. Stevens as CEO effective Jan. 1, 2013.

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Mr. Stevens said he was "deeply disappointed and genuinely saddened" by what he called a "very unfortunate moment" in the company's history, but said it should not undermine its standing with the Pentagon, other customers or its shareholders.

"I don't believe the company's in crisis," Mr. Stevens told reporters, citing the Lockheed's strong team of leaders and continued growth prospects. "We believe that strategically and operationally and financially we will not miss a beat."

He stressed that Mr. Kubasik's actions "did not affect the company's operational or financial performance."

Mr. Stevens said he would become executive chairman and would work closely with Ms. Hewson on the leadership transition throughout the coming year.

He said the Bethesda, Md.-based company had no immediate plans to name a COO to serve alongside Ms. Hewson, whom he described as "an exceptional leader with impeccable credentials."

Ms. Hewson said the company had proven resilient during previous management changes and that it would remain focused on meeting its commitments, cutting costs and drumming up new business.

"We will move forward beyond this temporary distraction together," Ms. Hewson told reporters.

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Mr. Stevens said Lockheed hired an independent investigator in October to look into the matter after an employee came forward with concerns about Mr. Kubasik's relationship with another staff member.

The investigation ended on Friday when the board asked for, and received, Mr. Kubasik's resignation. He admitted to having "a close personal relationship with a subordinate employee" that violated the company's code of ethics and business conduct.

Mr. Stevens said the company's swift actions showed its "unflinching commitment to ethics and integrity in everything that we do."

He said the woman involved in the relationship with Mr. Kubasik had also left Lockheed.

Lockheed disclosed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it would pay Mr. Kubasik $3.5-million (U.S.) in severance, but he would not receive a separate bonus for 2012.

Ms. Hewson has been with Lockheed Martin since 1983. She was named president and COO-elect in April.

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