Airbus Replace Sales Head After Less Than a Year on Job

(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE replaced its head of sales after less than a year, adding to the rapid changeover at the top of the planemaker and highlighting the challenge of filling the shoes of inimitable predecessor John Leahy.

Eric Schulz, who joined the European planemaker from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, will be succeeded by Christian Scherer, 56, an Airbus veteran who has held different positions inside the company, most recently as head of regional aircraft unit ATR. Schulz is leaving Airbus for personal reasons, and the company regrets his decision, it said in a statement.

Airbus Replace Sales Head After Less Than a Year on Job

The change at the crucial post comes as Airbus grapples with issues on its bestselling A320 single-aisle family that has been hurt by engine design flaws. Schulz was named to the post in late November last year and was selected for his deep knowledge of the aviation industry, having worked at Rolls-Royce and earlier at U.S.-based Goodrich Corp. His tenure included a $62 billion order haul at the Farnborough Air Show in July -- though just a fraction of that has since materialized on the planemaker’s order book.

His short stint in the role contrasts with Leahy’s reign that stretched over two decades, outlasting other executives at the top of Airbus and a line of successions at Boeing Co. Leahy is considered one of the most astute salesmen in the industry, having presided over Airbus’s rise over the years to form a de-facto duopoly with Boeing in the commercial aviation market.

Falling Stock

Airbus dropped 1 percent to 105.64 euros, after declining as much as 2.4 percent following the revelation of Schulz’s departure, first reported by Reuters. The stock has gained 27 percent this year, while Boeing is up 21 percent.

Before Schulz took over, Scherer had been considered a favorite to get the post -- even throwing his own name into the ring by touting his achievements at Airbus. Scherer said last year that he “grew up” at Airbus, having gone to school in the company’s home town of Toulouse and rising through the ranks of the planemaker over 35 years.

Finding a successor for Leahy was a complex process from the start. His designated replacement, Kiran Rao, was counted out of the running as Airbus endures an investigation into possible bribery allegations.

“With Christian Scherer we see one of our most customer-focused leaders at the commercial helm of Airbus,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said in the release. “Over his various assignments I greatly valued his international mind-set, his strategic vision, and tremendous commercial expertise.”

Enders himself is due to step down in coming months, adding to a string of departures as it restructures amid the probe by U.K. and French fraud offices. That’s included Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm who will leave with the CEO, while its head of commercial aircraft Fabrice Bregier was replaced last year with former helicopters chief Guillaume Faury.

This latest change is “a useful reminder that replacing the top echelon of management at any company is never an easy exercise,” said Sandy Morris, an analyst at Jefferies International.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.