The scandal at Airbus over alleged bribery in the sale of civil planes, helicopters and defense equipment has triggered a power struggle. The group’s French number two, Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Brégier, is trying to oust German Chief Executive Tom Enders, Handelsblatt has learned.
Company sources told Handelsblatt that Mr. Brégier is maneuvering against his boss by telling French media that Mr. Enders is the one in a very difficult position. He has alleged that the board of directors has doubts about whether the CEO can go on running the company, given that he was partly responsible for the scandal.
Mr. Brégier by contrast, who has been chief operating officer and president of Airbus Commercial Aircraft only since January 2017, is being portrayed as untainted by any alleged corruption, even though other sources suggested to Handelsblatt that some board members have questions about his role in an earlier job with the company.
Instead, Bregier supporters point to Marwan Lahoud, the head of the Airbus Strategy and Marketing Organization (SMO) who left in February 2017, as responsible for all the questionable sales and one of Mr. Enders’ closest colleague. Mr. Enders, the sources said, had countersigned Mr. Lahoud’s decisions.
The question now is whether Mr. Enders can carry on as chief executive and member of the board for 18 more months, company sources said. Mr. Enders’ contract expires in 2019. He has run Airbus since 2012.
"If Enders falls immediately, the board will have no option but to appoint" Mr. Brégier, said one senior Airbus insider.
Mr. Enders, 58, has a very different take on the whole situation. “I can prove that I have always been deeply committed to compliance in this company,” he told Handelsblatt in an interview in early October adding that he had “the full support of the board.” Back in 2007, it was Mr. Enders and Louis Gallois, who was the head of Airbus predecessor EADS at the time, who had pledged to “muck out the stable,” which referred in particular to the marketing organization SMO.
The staff of that unit had mainly come from the companies of EADS co-founder Jean-Luc Lagardère, such as Matra Défense and Matra-Aérospatiale. (end of excerpt)
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