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Airbus reveals management overhaul as Enders plans to leave
[LONDON] Airbus announced a complete overhaul of its top management, with the two most senior executives set to depart as the European planemaker grapples with corruption allegations.
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.
Guillaume Faury, CEO of the helicopters business, will take over Mr Bregier's role as head of the commercial plane-building unit, putting him in line to take over the top job when Mr Enders retires.
"It's been a long and exciting journey but now is the time to initiate a leadership change," Mr Enders said in the statement.
The shakeup is being carried out amid ongoing bribery investigations related to the use of middlemen in military and commercial airplane sales. Mr Enders, who turns 59 on Dec 21, has warned the probes may lead to "significant penalties" and has been trying to convince investigators in France and the UK that Airbus is serious about reining in improprieties as it works to get past controversy.
Mr Faury, 49, whom Mr Enders described as "our next generation of leaders," is an Airbus insider who's also spent time away from the company in the automotive industry. 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.
By 2013, he had returned to Airbus and was running the helicopter business. He started his professional career at France's DGA defence-procurement agency, overseeing flight tests of the Tiger chopper model. Mr Faury "has demonstrated broad business and industry experience, an international mindset and a clear focus on delivering value during his tenure at the helm of our helicopter business," Mr Enders said.
Letting the succession drag wasn't an option for Airbus's board. As well as contending with the corruption claims, the company is pondering whether to scrap its flagship A380 superjumbo model amid sluggish demand. Germany and France are major investors in the planemaker, and the top two jobs normally rotate between nationals of the two countries.
Airbus is due to hold its annual investor meeting in April after reporting full-year earnings on Feb 15, when it may provide an update on the bribery claims. Kepler Cheuvreux said Wednesday that its target price for the stock assumes a penalty provision of 2.5 billion euros (S$3.98 billion).
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. The 56-year-old Frenchman and had been the favorite to replace the German Enders. However, Mr Bregier oversees one of the businesses that's been caught up in the probes of alleged corruption related to the use of middlemen in aircraft sales.
Mr Enders rose through the ranks at Airbus and was appointed chief after previously running the commercial planemaking unit - the usual springboard to the top job. His record as CEO has been mixed.
Airbus has already seen a partial overhaul of its senior management ranks. Marwan Lahoud, its head of strategy, departed last year, while John Leahy, the head of sales and a fixture at the company for decades, announced his decision to retire a few weeks ago.
Airbus picked an external candidate, Eric Schulz from Rolls-Royce Holdings, to succeed Mr Leahy, highlighting how the company is keen to inject new blood.