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Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images & David Ryder/Getty Images

CEOs often depart without much explanation, outside of pablum about wanting to spend more time with their families or pursue new challenges.

  • At Boeing, whose 737 Max planes killed 346 people, the situation is reversed: CEO Dennis Muilenburg still has his job, despite a ruinous year that would have toppled most other CEOs.
  • No one seems to know why.

Muilenburg has led Boeing since 2015, and he has been heralded for achieving record profits and tripling the company's stock price.

But then came two crashes of Boeing 737 Max jets:

  • Lion Air Flight 610 — with 189 people aboard — took off from Jakarta in October 2018 and plunged to its demise within minutes.
  • Then came Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed and killed 157 in March shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa.

Why it matters: These horrors laid bare a culture at Boeing in which safety concerns were discounted — and federal regulators were treated as little more than malleable rubber stamps.

  • Muilenburg has proven unable to get Boeing's 737 Max fleet back in operation, and this week the company announced an indefinite production stoppage that was at one point unthinkable.
  • Boeing's profits have sagged, even turning a loss in Q2. Shareholders have lost more than $65 billion since March.

Where it stands: Muilenburg was stripped of his chairman title in October and recently vowed to forgo any 2019 bonuses, but he continues to lead the company and earn millions of dollars in base salary.

  • No member of Boeing's board, which includes Nikki Haley and Caroline Kennedy, has publicly declared opposition to Muilenburg.
  • No activist investor has threatened to wage a proxy fight over management.
  • Muilenburg told Congress in October that "you don’t run away from challenges” and that Boeing is "fixing" its "mistakes," but he's so far been unable to meet the challenges or fix the mistakes.
  • No one has given a rationale for why Muilenburg remains CEO — including nearly a dozen Boeing analysts contacted by Axios. One theory is that they simply don't think they can find someone better, but, again, it's just a theory.

The bottom line: Hundreds are dead. Families are devastated. Safety was secondary. Billions of dollars have been lost. Projected timelines have been scrapped, and optimism has proven misplaced. Suppliers now face their own uncertainties, threatening livelihoods beyond Boeing.

  • Many, many other CEOs have been fired for much, much less — particularly in 2019.

Go deeper: Pro Rata Podcast on Boeing's unfriendly skies

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists — National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
  5. Cities: Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. World: London police arrest dozens during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
9 hours ago - Economy & Business

The unicorn stampede is coming

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Airbnb and DoorDash plan to go public in the next few weeks, capping off a very busy year for IPOs.

What's next: You ain't seen nothing yet.