PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus (AIR.PA) Chief Executive Tom Enders, who is stepping down in 2019, urged employees on Friday to allow the board to pick his successor without being distracted by speculation about who would replace him.
“You may be wondering who will replace me in 2019,” Enders said in a letter seen by Reuters shortly after a management shake-up. “This is a matter for the board to decide in due course, behind closed doors and in the sole interest of Airbus, its employees and shareholders.”
“We have much to achieve together between now and then, so my suggestion is to let the board do their work and we’ll focus on ours.”
Enders acknowledged past differences with his no.2 and chief operating officer, Fabrice Bregier, and said he was relying on Bregier’s team to welcome his successor Guillaume Faury into the role “with open arms and ease him into the job”.
Bregier is leaving in February 2018, having told the board he would not seek the CEO position in 2019, Airbus said earlier.
Several people close to the company said tensions between the two top executives had contributed to Bregier’s departure, though aides to Enders said it was solely related to the board-supervised succession process.
“I am personally very grateful to Fabrice for everything he has done for Airbus,” Enders said.
Faury will be replaced as head of Airbus Helicopters in coming weeks, he added.
In his own letter, Bregier thanked staff and called for one last push to meet a “difficult” challenge of reaching a record target of more than 700 jet deliveries in 2017.
“It will require a huge effort, but I am confident that with your support and full dedication, we will be successful again.”
Enders called for “all hands on deck” to meet the same goal, which is being closely watched by aerospace investors.
Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Richard Lough