The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association tapped a general aviation pilot and CEO of San Jose-based Orchard Supply Hardware Stores Corporation, Mark Baker, to become the fifth president of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Baker – who is no relation to the colorful former AOPA President John Baker – succeeds Craig Fuller, who announced his plans to depart the association earlier this year. Fuller was only the fourth president in the association’s 75-year history.
Baker, 55, became a pilot in his twenties and has more than 7,500 hours of flight time on a range of aircraft, from his Piper Super Cub, to seaplanes, turbine aircraft and helicopters. He’s been an AOPA member since 1987. He has been deeply involved in the Young Eagles and other Experimental Aircraft Association initiatives, positioning AOPA to continue the close collaboration between the associations that has developed in recent years.
While he has been an active participant in the general aviation community for 35 years, his selection continues a trend at AOPA to reach outside of the industry to hold the association’s top post. Baker has held senior executive roles at Miracle-Gro Company, Gander Mountain Company and The Home Depot. He also has served with HomeBase, Scotty’s Home Improvement Centers and Knox Hardware and Lumber.
His predecessor Fuller had brought Washington insider experience to AOPA, and Phil Boyer, who held the role before that, joined from the communications industry.
The AOPA Board of Trustees launched a search earlier this year after Fuller announced plans to step down once a successor was found. Fuller cited personal reasons for his departure, but said he wanted to fulfill his five year commitment with the association.
“With the end of my five-year commitment approaching, this is an appropriate time for me to consider new opportunities and allow the board time to recruit a successor,” Fuller had said, stressing the association “will not miss a beat this year as we lay the groundwork for the future.”
AOPA Chairman of the Board of Trustees Bill Trimble paid tribute to Fuller’s service: “He served as a formidable advocate on behalf of the general aviation community, helped to forge partnerships with other aviation associations and provided important guidance at a challenging moment in our history. We wish him well as he moves on to the next stage of his distinguished career.”
The board retained the national search firm of Heidrick & Struggles to assist in the search. The news of the move comes the same day Baker announced that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court had approved the pending acquisition of his company by Lowe’s Companies for $205 million. Orchard Supply had filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June and announced the deal with Lowe’s shortly thereafter.
Baker will begin Sept. 6, but has agreed to continue to advise Orchard Supply during its transition.
Stepping down from Orchard Supply could mean the loss of a $2 million-plus annual compensation package for Baker. AOPA is not releasing salaries, but Fuller had a reported compensation of about $700,000.
In addition to president and CEO of AOPA, he also will serve as chairman of AOPA’s Political Action Committee, CEO of the AOPA Foundation and publisher of AOPA Pilot.
“We are pleased to announce that Mark Baker has been selected as the next president and chief executive officer of AOPA,” Trimble says. “He has all the tools this job demands. He has an extraordinary understanding of the importance of serving our membership and advancing their needs.”
Baker says he plans to focus on the association’s mission of “protecting the freedom to fly” and plans to gather feedback from members to best focus association resources.
National Business Aviation Association President and CEO Ed Bolen welcomed the appointment, noting his longtime membership with AOPA as a pilot and business background. He added that Baker has served as an executive with a number of NBAA member companies. “NBAA has long had an extremely close and effective relationship with AOPA, one that has involved successful advocacy on behalf of important general aviation issues, and we look forward to continuing to build on this relationship,“ Bolen says.