Airbus (AIR.PA) on Thursday appointed new operational and sales chiefs as part of a management reshuffle following a revamp of its main planemaking business under a new commercial chief executive officer.
The world’s largest planemaker said Florent Massou would become head of operations and confirmed that Benoit de Saint-Exupery would take over as head of sales, succeeding Christian Scherer who has already been appointed as CEO of the core commercial planemaking business from Jan. 1.
Alberto Gutierrez, who until now has been chief operating officer, will remain on the main executive committee with a new role in “special industrial projects” and responsibility for Spain, a sensitive political relationship for Airbus in the wake of industrial tensions and a drop in A400M military orders.
Julie Kitcher, currently in charge of communications and corporate affairs, has been promoted to the new post of chief sustainability officer while keeping control of communications.
Airbus (AIR.PA) announced the broad outlines of the revamp last month, restoring dedicated leadership of its main business for the first time in four years as it steps up jet production and freeing overall CEO Guillaume Faury to focus on strategy, amid concerns over key defence and space projects.
In a carefully nuanced structure, the people occupying the two main operational roles – Programmes, which remain under Philippe Mhun, and Operations – will both report to Scherer and sit on the main executive committee under Faury.
Airbus confirmed it was not re-creating a new commercial divisional structure to mirror the reorganisation of top jobs.
Instead, Scherer will run the commercial business as CEO of that activity and on paper this will remain in the same bucket as the Airbus parent entity, which will remain under Faury’s overall control.
Airbus merged its parent and main commercial division in 2017, with the defence and helicopter divisions sitting underneath. Sources have said it is reluctant to re-create a holding company structure following a series of Franco-German power battles when the group was called EADS then Airbus Group.
People familiar with the company say that the new system has in any case proven to be agile and Faury is unwilling to return to a traditional headquarters structure given the scale of the commercial operations, which make up about 70% of revenue.
Reuters reported last month that Benoit de Saint-Exupery, a descendant of the iconic French author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery, was tipped to become head of sales – one of the most visible positions in the aircraft industry.
Reuters also reported that the corporate changes could lead to a shake-up of operational leadership. Deliveries sagged early in the year but have already improved sharply since the summer.