Airbus Veteran Scherer Touts Sales Credentials as Leahy Bows Out

(Bloomberg) -- Christian Scherer’s pitch as a successor to Airbus SE’s legendary sales supremo John Leahy goes like this: he’s even better.

Speaking at the Dubai Air Show, Scherer took at light-hearted swipe at Leahy’s legacy, saying the Airbus executive has built a sales operation that is second in the world only to that of ATR, the Airbus turboprop partnership that Scherer now runs.

Scherer said 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. As Airbus scans for suitable candidates to follow Leahy, his name has come up as a possible candidate.

“I am an Airbus employee, so if Airbus makes a decision to recall me then it’s their decision,” said Scherer. He declined to comment further on his intentions or any conversations taking place with Airbus.

Leahys’ succession is one of the most closely watched personnel decisions in the civil aviation world. The Airbus executive is credited with elevating the European manufacturer over the past decades to the status of Boeing Co.’s fiercest rival, building an order book of thousands of aircraft that span the A320 family to the giant A380 jumbo. The post has also become politically sensitive after Leahy’s designated replacement Kiran Rao was counted out of the running, as Airbus endures an investigation into possible bribery allegations.

The company wants to firm up the decision on Leahy’s succession once his successor has settled in, likely around the end of the year or early in 2018. Another possible candidate to succeed Leahy is Eric Schulz, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Schulz is the head of civil aviation at Rolls-Royce Plc, the U.K. engine maker that’s fostered closer ties with Airbus over the years and supplies power plants for its A350 or A380 aircraft.

Rolls-Royce declined to comment.

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