Airbus names Rolls-Royce executive as its new chief salesman

(Photo: Airbus)

Airbus has named a senior executive from Rolls-Royce as the successor to John Leahy as its chief salesman.

The airframer announced on Tuesday (European time) Eric Schulz would join the company as an executive vice president and its chief of sales, marketing and contracts for Airbus’s Commercial Aircraft business.

The 54-year-old Schulz will take up the role in January 2018. Since January 2016, Schulz has been Rolls-Royce president for civil aerospace.

A supplied image of Eric Schulz. (Airbus)
A supplied image of Eric Schulz. (Airbus)

Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said Schulz had broad international experience in the aerospace industry, a deep understanding of airline operations and aero engines, as well as a proven track record in building and effectively leading organisations in complex environments.

“This combination of skills and experience makes Eric the right pick to succeed John Leahy at a critical juncture of our company’s development,” Enders said in a statement.

The 67-year-old Leahy, who has been with Airbus since 1985 and its chief operating officer for customers (effectively its chief salesman) since 1994, would remain at the company for a “few months’ transition” before he heads into retirement.

His departure from Airbus has been flagged for some time, with Leahy himself hinting earlier in 2017 that he planned to retire after more than three decades at the company he helped build into a global manufacturing giant. In October, he said he planned to leave the company at the end of 2017.

The Airbus statement described Leahy as “truly a living legend in the history of aviation”, noting that the 16,000 aircraft sold under his watch represented some 90 per cent of all Airbus aircraft ever sold.

A file image of John Leahy. (Airbus)
A file image of John Leahy. (Airbus)

“There are not enough words to express the gratitude I feel for John Leahy both on a professional and personal level,” Enders said.

“His contribution to Airbus’ commercial aircraft business is epic. His relentless efforts, his vision and his dedication were key factors in propelling the company from an industry underdog to a world leader.

“His tremendous fighting spirit and his unwavering loyalty to the Airbus flag have made him an inspiration for many, including me. He has become a good personal friend and I wish him a restful and well-deserved retirement.”

Separately, Rolls-Royce said in a statement Schulz would remain at the company until the end of calendar 2017, with a search for his replacement already underway.

However, Schulz would not be involved in strategic or commercial discussions concerning airframe or airline customers. Rolls-Royce said Chris Young, director for programmes – civil aerospace, would take on responsibility for commercial and strategic matters within civil aerospace.

“I would like to thank Eric for his valuable support and leadership over the past seven years,” Rolls-Royce chief executive Warren East said.

“He has laid the foundations for our future success and all of us at Rolls-Royce wish him the very best in his new role.”