SAIC's Moraco groomed his successor for two years

Tony Moraco began grooming his replacement as CEO two years ago when he promoted Nazzic Keene to be chief operating officer.

CEO Tony Moraco’s decision to retire and hand over the reins of Science Applications International Corp. was no sudden decision.

In fact it’s been about two years in the making, he told me, starting with when Nazzic Keene became chief operating officer in 2017.

“I always said I wanted to retire before I was 60,” Moraco said, and he turns 59 on Thursday.

“I’ve worked for 35 years and it’s been great run. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to spin a company and be CEO. It’s going on six years.”

Keene also is the near-ideal candidate to replace him. She had a long career at CGI before joining "Old SAIC" in 2012, then worked on the spin out of "New SAIC" in 2013.

Her path to CEO began in earnest when she became chief operating officer in 2017. Moraco said he told her at the time that she’d be CEO in two or three years. “That was always part of the plan,” he said.

Preparation for her CEO role began early. She already had strong operational and technical skills, but Moraco began exposing her to broader corporate functions. And he had the board of directors' support.

“This was a conscious effort to give her more visibility into the company,” he said. This included reorganizations that broadened the scope of the COO position and gave her more access to corporate functions.

“We gave her more visibility to the investor community through investor calls and investor days,” Moraco said. “She’s done a great job the last two years to develop those relationships and it all points to that now is the time to turn things over.”

Keene steps into the CEO role on July 31.

For Moraco, he said he has no plans to take on another leadership role at another company. “Maybe a board someday, but this has been the pinnacle. I couldn’t do better,” he said.

Moraco said he is proudest of three accomplishments:

  • Building a new culture that retained SAIC’s long heritage of entrepreneurship while creating a single market-facing organization.
  • The acquisitions of Scitor and Engility to create $1 billion intelligence business. SAIC had almost no intelligence business when it spun out of the old SAIC.
  • Financial performance that returned good results to SAIC’s shareholders.

“We’ve achieved a lot,” he said. “I’m satisfied with where we are and I’m happy and proud to turn the company over to one of my partners, Nazzic, and a very strong management team.

"What better time to turn it over, while things are going well and I’m confident in the team to carry it forward.”