Veteran: Christian Scherer has been working for Airbus since the 80s, just like his father.
Photo: GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP
It is a remarkable personnel change in a highly political group. Airbus apparently wants to appoint the German sales chief Christian Scherer (61) as head of its core business aircraft construction, which contributes around 70 percent of the group's sales. He is to take over the division, which was previously led by the French CEO Guillaume Faury (55). The change will be officially announced in the coming days.
For the Airbus Group, it is the largest management restructuring in years. CEO Faury is thus to be given the opportunity to concentrate more on the comprehensive strategy. In addition, he can pay more attention to the growing and difficult business in the defense and space industry. The split had been expected for weeks, the previous Chief Commercial Officer Scherer was considered one of the internal candidates, along with Bruno Even, the head of the helicopter division. Airbus declined to comment on the move.
Scherer has held his previous post since 2018, when he replaced Eric Schulz, who had struggled to succeed long-time Airbus sales chief John Leahy (73). Scherer is himself an Airbus veteran: his father was a test engineer in the 1970s, when Europe began to challenge US dominance in the jet market. He grew up in Toulouse and studied in Canada and France before joining the company in 1984. Prior to his appointment as head of sales, Airbus had seconded him to the French regional aircraft manufacturer ATR, which is 50 percent owned by the group. Prior to that, he was responsible for the strategy in civil aviation and convinced the company, among other things, to build the improved A320neo, which later ensured record sales.
Restructuring at Airbus is more delicate than at most other companies, as there has been friction between the founders France and Germany in the past; To date, the two countries hold a good ten percent of the shares in Airbus. Since 2019, Faury has been in charge of the Group and also its largest segment. Scherer's appointment represents a broad continuity within the world's largest aircraft manufacturer, which competes with Boeing. However, it also restores the system of separate management of the group and aircraft business, which was abandoned in 2019 after a politically charged power struggle between Fabrice Brégier (62) and then CEO Tom Enders (64).
With the appointment of a high-ranking manager of German origin, greater French control at the top of the group is now being avoided. While Scherer will take over the core business, the Frenchman Even will remain head of the growing helicopter division. "It's a relatively low-risk move and minimizes policy setbacks, which were one of the fears," said Rob Stallard, an analyst at Vertical Partners, noting that the restructuring builds on well-established leadership.
Concerns about corporate governance have cooled under Faury. His tenure was marked by the response to the global flight bans during the pandemic, followed by a recovery in demand, as well as efforts to transform and decarbonize. Sales had grown by eleven percent to 2023.27 billion euros in the first half of 7, but operating profit fell significantly to 1.9 billion euros. Since the pandemic, the Group had missed or softened several performance targets. However, Faury is sticking to the annual targets for 1000 in view of more than 2023 new orders for aircraft.
Airbus is in the process of defining the strategy for the next generation of jets, expected in the mid-2030s, which is likely to shape competition with Boeing and emerging rival China for decades to come. Scherer can now provide impetus here, but in view of his age, he is unlikely to hold the post for ages. Insiders say the immediate challenges he will face will be less familiar industrial challenges: meeting production and delivery targets, as well as managing some 80,000 Airbus employees in his division.