Airbus recommends Eric Schulz to replace Leahy


© Reuters. AIRBUS RECOMMENDS ERIC SCHULZ TO REPLACE LEAHY

by Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus (PA:AIR) has chosen Eric Schulz, head of the civilian aircraft at Rolls-Royce (LON:RR), to become its next director commercial, has learned to Reuters, three sources aware of the folder.

This recommendation puts an end to months of uncertainty on the estate of John Leahy, who is about to retire.

The selection of a candidate external to the group comes at a time when the aircraft manufacturer is facing investigations in France and the United Kingdom on charges of corruption linked to aircraft sales.

The application of Christian Scherer, executive chairman of the manufacturer of turboprop aircraft ATR, a joint venture owned by Airbus and the Italian Leonardo-Finmeccanica, was also considered.

Christian Scherer, who has worked 30 years at Airbus before joining ATR, had been previously responsible for the commercial strategy of the company. But although this last is not tied to investigations, anti-corruption, industry sources have indicated that the board of directors insisted on a nomination, breaking with the past.

The final decision must be confirmed by the board of directors of Airbus.

Airbus and Rolls-Royce refused to comment. Neither Eric Schulz or Christian Scherer were only reachable in the immediate future.

John Leahy, who has held this position since 1994, was originally scheduled to retire in September, but postponed his departure at the request of the chief executive officer of Airbus Tom Enders.

At the beginning of November, he had indicated that he would remain at the head of the commercial management of the group until the appointment of his successor.

John Leahy is expected to leave his post around the 25th of January.

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Eric Schulz, a French engineer of 54 years of age, began his career at one of the groups that have given birth to Airbus Aerospace, before working for the oem aerospace Goodrich.

It is part of the leadership team of the manufacturer in the uk that has allowed the group to settle in the beginning of the year a corruption case in exchange for a series of fines imposed by british authorities, american and brazilian. Eric Schulz leads the division of civil aircraft, Rolls-Royce since January, 2016.

This choice strengthens the collaboration already in operation between Rolls-Royce and Airbus on the widebody.

Last year, Boeing (NYSE:BA) has hired Kevin McAllister, who has worked for nearly 30 years in the aviation division of its supplier, General Electric (NYSE:GE), to take over the helm of its division of commercial aviation.

“Rolls-Royce and Airbus are very related, so they must be familiar with (Eric Schulz) and he should well know also,” says Nick Cunningham, analyst at Agency Partners.

But Eric Schulz will have to manage sales teams confused and shaken by the decline in sales of the group and by internal and external investigations open to suspicion of corruption.

“They have chosen a clean break, but this is not without risk,” notes an industry source.

If, as expected, the board of directors confirmed his appointment, Eric Schulz, will have to act quickly to boost the morale of the teams and strengthen ties with customers, after the show in half-tone in Dubai, say industry sources.

“He is very direct, this is not a policy,” says a person who has negotiated with him.

The choice of a commercial director is a decision that will affect the evolution of the band for years.

The title Airbus, who finished Friday down 0.1% on the Paris stock Exchange, has taken more than 36% this year, compared to over 10% for the CAC.

(With Dominique Rodriguez, Catherine Mallebay-Vacqueur for the French service)

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