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Airbus said to name Rao deputy to Leahy, anointing heir apparent

[TOULOUSE] Airbus Group SE named Kiran Rao as deputy to John Leahy, positioning him as the most likely successor to the European planemaker's longtime sales chief, people familiar with the plan said.

The elevation of Rao, Airbus's 52-year-old executive vice-president for strategy and future programmes, has been disclosed to top management, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is still private. A public announcement will come within the next month, they said.

Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath declined to comment.

The appointment comes less than a month after Boeing announced that Ihssane Mounir would replace John Wojick as its head of sales early next year.

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Mr Leahy, 66, has outlasted more than a half-dozen Boeing counterparts since being named Airbus's chief commercial officer in 1994. In his career at the planemaker, Mr Leahy has won aircraft commitments valued at more than US$1 trillion.

Airbus announced a plan in September to combine all divisions into a single company, as Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders seeks to cut costs, streamline operations and reduce bureaucracy.

Mr Rao also held the title of executive vice-president for sales and marketing. Mr Rao was born in India and studied aeronautical engineering.