Major management shake-up at Airbus

Cornelia Mascio
Dicembre 15, 2017

Airbus SE Chief Executive Tom Enders has told the board he will depart in 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Chief executive officer Tom Enders plans to step down when his term ends in April 2019, while chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier is set to leave in February, the Toulouse, France-based company said Friday in a statement.

Board directors meeting on Thursday are seeking to contain damage from multiple worldwide fraud investigations over commercial and military sales, while getting a grip on what could become a chain reaction of departures, insiders said.

A spokesman for the French government, which like the German government owns 11 percent of Airbus, declined to comment. Enders has been trying to persuade investigators in France and the United Kingdom that Airbus is serious about tackling abnormalities, warning that inquiries could lead to "significant penalties".

Tom Enders was appointed Airbus chief executive in 2012
Tom Enders was appointed Airbus chief executive in 2012

Enders commented, "Guillaume's succession at Airbus Helicopters will be decided and announced in the coming weeks". He held management positions at the helicopters division, previously known as Eurocopter, for a decade before leaving in 2008 to join French carmaker Peugeot, where he served in a top research and development role and as a member of the managing board. Mr Faury "has demonstrated broad business and industry experience, an worldwide mindset and a clear focus on delivering value during his tenure at the helm of our helicopter business", Mr Enders said.

Back in October, the board had appointed head-hunters to examine fresh options for top posts, though the company reiterated that it is a normal planning exercise that they conduct. Germany and France are major investors in the planemaker, and the top two jobs normally rotate between nationals of the two countries. The company is due to hold its annual investor meeting in April after reporting full-year earnings on February 15, when it may provide an update on the bribery claims. Kepler Cheuvreux said on Wednesday that its target price for the stock assumed a penalty provision of €2.5bn.

Mr Bregier, who heads the commercial planes division, was told earlier this year that he wouldn't get the top job and has been looking for other opportunities since, according to people familiar with the matter.

"It means two things: that despite his wishes, Enders could be replaced, and it would not automatically be Bregier", a senior source with close links to the company said. These feelings only grew stronger after the company filed a corruption complaint against itself in the United Kingdom in October - in the hope that by disclosing the problems itself, the company could get off easier - for alleged kickbacks and the use of illicit funds and dubious sales agents. Airbus picked an external candidate, Eric Schulz from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, to succeed Leahy, highlighting how the company is keen to inject new blood.

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