The board of directors has approved a planned management reshuffle after naming former European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet to the board in a bid to appease the French government.
The leadership transition will now unfold as initially planned, withCEO Tom Enders replacing retiring EADS CEO Louis Gallois this summer, and Fabrice Bregier moving into the top job at Airbus. Arnaud Lagardere takes over as EADS board chairman from Bodo Uebber.
The arrangement reflects the long-standing complexities of balancing French and German interests in the aerospace and defense company. Five years ago, when EADS made the transition to a single-CEO structure—from the dual structure previously in place—an agreement was reached to have a German chairman and a French CEO, with a swap at the next leadership transition in 2012.
But in recent months, French government officials grew concerned they might not have enough control over EADS under that setup, in part reflecting a lack of confidence in Lagardere. That caused a push for greater influence, either by having French nationals take more positions in the executive ranks—such as the position of CFO orCEO—or potentially naming Gallois to the board.
But those ideas met resistance from Enders and others. Lutz Bertling only recently was extended as Eurocopter CEO, and Enders has already identified his preferred CFO to replace Hans-Peter Ring, with the expected appointment of Harald Wilhelm, the current Airbus CFO.
EADS was hoping to announce the leadership changes last year, but the dispute was not resolved until a Jan. 26 board meeting, with the Trichet appointment to the board as the compromise. The move means Enders effectively wins the battle in assembling his executive team, with the French government gaining a trusted voice at the board level.
The changes still need approval at the annual generation meeting on May 31.
In a statement, departing Board Chairman Uebber says, “Today’s decisions mark a very important milestone in the development of EADS. Having clarity about the board and management positions enables EADS to build a bright future for the long term on solid foundations.”
Other changes taking effect June 1 will be the appointment of Guenther Butschek as No. 2 to Bregier, taking the role of Airbus chief operating officer; he currently is head of operations for the aircraft maker. Marwan Lahoud, as expected, received a mandate extension as EADS’ chief of strategy and marketing officer. Thierry Baril replaces Jussi Itavuori as the head of human resources.