Company Veteran Named Airbus Sales Chief After Ex-Rolls Executive Quits

September 13, 2018 Updated: September 14, 2018    

PARIS—Airbus named its second new sales chief in less than a year on Sept. 13 after chief commercial officer Eric Schulz abruptly resigned nine months after being poached from Rolls-Royce to lead the battle for jet sales against Boeing.

The European planemaker said Christian Scherer, head of turboprop maker ATR and an Airbus veteran who had been beaten to the job by Schulz in November last year, would take over the position immediately, reporting to Chief Executive Tom Enders.

Reuters earlier exclusively reported that Schulz was expected to resign. Airbus said his decision had been taken for personal reasons.

The surprise exit comes as Airbus faces delays and industry-wide reliability problems with engines that soured relations with several customers and left the Frenchman increasingly frustrated, people familiar with the matter said.

The company now has a battle on its hands to recapture lost ground after its share of orders against Boeing this year slumped to barely a quarter in the wake of a looser than usual set of commitments at the Farnborough Airshow.

Sources said Scherer’s aggressive commercial streak could challenge Boeing’s lead in the airplane market, where the two sides are embroiled in a bruising battle for wide-body sales.

But he is not a preacher of ‘market share’ for its own sake, especially where jet market stability is at risk.

Tensions

Schulz was picked for the high-profile Airbus post last year after the company bungled efforts to name an internal successor to John Leahy, the U.S.-born sales kingpin who retired in February.

His appointment reflected a desire by the board to bring in outside blood as Airbus endured turmoil over the impact of ongoing UK and French corruption investigations, which severely demoralized the Airbus marketing machine.

But Schulz’s previous position as head of Rolls-Royce civil engines did not always guarantee him a sympathetic hearing from airlines currently suffering problems with Rolls engines on Boeing and Airbus jets, according to multiple aircraft market sources.

By Tim Hepher

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