HAMBURG/PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus’ long-serving sales chief John Leahy plans to stay on until a successor is found, with a decision expected within the next week or so, he told Reuters on Friday.
Reuters reported on Thursday that Airbus had embarked on a fresh search for a sales chief and that Leahy’s deputy, Kiran Rao, had confirmed he would not be running for the post after the company decided to look outside.
“I will stay until we have a successor on board. I‘m not going to walk out the door after all these years at Airbus,” Leahy said, speaking after Airbus delivered Emirates’ 100th A380 jet.
He said he had spoken with Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders on Thursday evening and that Enders was “determined to make a decision within the next week or something”, with one leading internal and one leading external candidate in the race.
Industry sources said the main internal contender is thought to be Christian Scherer, chief executive of turboprop maker ATR, which is co-owned by Airbus but lies outside the main perimeter of Europe’s largest aerospace company.
His appointment would bring relative stability but could irk ATR partner Leonardo since Scherer has only been in the job for a year, coming on the heels of a premature decision by Airbus to recall his predecessor.
Some on the board are calling for a complete outsider following turmoil over compliance investigations, and Airbus is also taking a close look at the recently overhauled management team at Britain’s Rolls-Royce, industry sources said.
Leahy was initially preparing to retire in September but said Enders had asked him to stay on until the end of the year, because a lot of things were happening, such as the deal to take a majority stake in the Bombardier CSeries programme.
Leahy added he expected the new manager to be on board by the end of the year, so that he could hand over in January or February.
Commercial revenues drive three-quarters of the Airbus business, which also includes satellites, helicopters and a stake in the Eurofighter combat jet.
The board will have the final say on the sensitive decision over who succeeds Leahy, who has been in the post for 23 years.
Whoever succeeds him must help steer Airbus out of its current crisis and fill a vacuum left by Leahy and the U-turn over the appointment of Rao: heavyweights able to run “game-changing” campaigns in a sales war with Boeing, insiders said.
Boeing has been winning back market share from Airbus under recently appointed Ihssane Mounir, inflicting a rare defeat on the European company at this year’s Paris Airshow in June.
Reporting by Victoria Bryan, Tim Hepher; Editing by Maria Sheahan and David Evans