PARIS (Reuters) - Planemaking boss Guillaume Faury was named as the next chief executive of Airbus (AIR.PA) on Monday, ending months of uncertainty over the leadership of Europe’s largest aerospace group and underlining the dominance of its commercial jet arm.
The 50-year-old Frenchman will replace German-born Tom Enders when he retires at the next shareholder meeting in April 2019, the Franco-German-Spanish company said in a statement.
Chairman Denis Ranque, a Frenchman, will step down when his own term expires in 2020, it added.
The announcement came after the board brought forward discussions on the handover amid a growing leadership vacuum in the wake of a series of management departures, internal and external graft probes and the pre-announced exit of Enders.
It did so as the board grappled with the need to avoid appearing indecisive following months of uncertainty over the top job and a string of mid-level and senior departures.
On Sept. 28, Reuters exclusively reported Airbus was moving swiftly towards appointing Faury as its next CEO and could announce a decision within weeks.
Faury was appointed head of the core planemaking business last December after Fabrice Bregier agreed to quit following a power battle with Enders, in a shake-up that also saw the German CEO draw back from plans to seek a third term in 2019.
Pressure to end uncertainty over the CEO job grew with the resignation of sales chief Eric Schulz in August, with the former Rolls-Royce executive’s abrupt departure strengthening calls for an internal successor to Enders..
A person close to Enders denied there had been any leadership vacuum since he announced his intention not to seek a third term and said he had remained involved in the business.
As CEO of the only serious rival to U.S. planemaker Boeing (BA.N), Faury will continue to tackle industrial problems affecting some jet deliveries while overseeing smaller but increasingly autonomous helicopter and defense units.
People familiar with the matter said he would not be replaced in his current role, though this did not exclude shoring up the operational management as two top industrial executives prepare to retire at the end of this year.
The Airbus planemaking business merged with the parent group last year, but until now had maintained separate figureheads.
Faury will also need to restore morale shattered by a probe into the use of middlemen, now in its third year and which has left management sidelined as board directors pilot the inquiry.
Airbus said its board would begin selecting a new chairman “in due course”, with a view to “maintaining international diversity” at board and management level.
Sources said last month that Faury’s hiring could herald changes in the board as Ranque would step down in 2020.
Airbus usually divides chairman and CEO jobs between French and German nationals, though the ability of Paris and Berlin governments to dish out top jobs for purely political reasons was halted in 2013. Although their power is curtailed and Airbus claims full independence, the two governments each maintain a voice as 11-percent shareholders and major defense buyers.
Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Potter