Leadership changes at Airbus

(Photo: Airbus)

Global aerospace giant Airbus will have new leadership at the top of the company by April 2019 and at its key commercial aircraft arm by February 2018.

Current Airbus chief executive Tom Enders will step down by the company’s annual shareholders meeting in April 2019, saying the company needed “fresh minds for the 2020s”.

Meanwhile Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Fabrice Bregier has declared himself out of the running for Enders’ job and will depart the company by February 2018 to “pursue other interests”, it was announced on Friday (European time).

His replacement was named immediately, with current chief executive of Airbus Helicopters Guillaume Faury to succeed Bregier at Airbus Commercial Aircraft.

Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Fabrice Bregier speaking in Singapore at the arrival of Singapore Airlines' first Airbus A380 featuring the airline's new cabin products. (Jordan Chong)
Airbus Commercial Aircraft president Fabrice Bregier speaking in Singapore at the arrival of Singapore Airlines’ first A380 featuring the airline’s new cabin products. (Jordan Chong)

Airbus said the board would conduct a search for Enders’ replacement as chief executive during 2018 that it hoped would be concluded ahead of the 2019 shareholders meeting. The search would include both internal and external candidates.

“The board of directors is responsible for ensuring orderly succession planning and the continuous development of the executive pipeline,” Airbus chairman Denis Ranque said in a statement.

“We are confident we have taken the right decisions to ensure Airbus’s long-term stability and future success and we fully support Tom Enders to lead Airbus through this generational handover.”

Ranque said he understood Brégier’s decision to step away from the company after more than two decades.

“I am very grateful to Fabrice Brégier for his dedication to the company during all these years and for his contribution to the success of Airbus, with its integration, its remarkable international development and the successful launch of new programs such as the A350, the A320neo and the A330neo,” Ranque said.

“We understand his desire to use this opportunity of change at the top of the company to pursue new opportunities after 25 years.”

The announcement regarding leadership changes comes at a time when Airbus is mired in a corruption scandal that has investigators in France and the United Kingdom looking into allegations of fraud.

It also follows a massive corporate reorganisation that was first announced in September 2016 and completed in July 2017 that brought the pan-European manufacturer’s various businesses – which range from jetliners to satellites and choppers to fighter jets – into three divisions, namely Commercial Aircraft, Defence and Space, and Helicopters.

Bregier, who was named president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft and chief operating officer of Airbus under the new organisational structure, said he felt the time was “right to pursue other opportunities outside”, following five years as MBDA chief executive, four years as chief executive of Eurocopter and eleven years as chief operating officer, chief executive, chief executive or president of Airbus commercial aircraft.

“I have been fully dedicated to Airbus and to its success during all these years, and up to my departure next year I will remain focused on meeting Airbus’ commitments to all stakeholders and on ensuring a smooth handover to my successor,” Brégier said.

A file image of Tom Enders. (Airbus)
Tom Enders. (Airbus)

Enders said Faury’s successor at Airbus Helicopters would be decided and announced in the comping weeks.

As to his own decision to step down as Airbus chief executive, Enders said: “The privilege of serving this great company comes with a responsibility to support a smooth succession when the time is ripe.”

“In 2019, I will have served all together 14 years at the helm of Airbus and EADS. It’s been a long and exciting journey but now is the time to initiate a leadership change.”

“In the coming 16 months, I will work with the board to ensure a smooth transition to the next CEO and a new generation of leaders; I will focus on our business challenges; and I will further progress and strengthen our ethics and compliance programs.”