Airbus planemaking chief Fabrice Bregier to step down, say sources

Bregier (above), 56, is credited with stabilising industrial problems at the world’s second largest planemaker. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - Airbus planemaking chief Fabrice Bregier is leaving the aerospace group after losing a long-running power battle with chief executive Tom Enders, three sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday (Dec 14).

He will be replaced at the helm of the main planemaking division by Guillaume Faury, the 49-year-old head of Airbus Helicopters who is not however expected to inherit Bregier's broader title as chief operating officer, they added.

Airbus declined to comment.

The shake-up, to be announced on Friday, was agreed at a board meeting on Thursday following weeks of tensions inside Europe's largest aerospace group.

Bregier, 56, is credited with stabilising industrial problems at the world's second largest planemaker and overseeing key sales to Japan and elsewhere, but has been embroiled in a long-running rivalry with chief executive Tom Enders.

Two sources said Frenchman Bregier had sought a public expression of confidence from the French government, mirroring recent backing from Berlin for German-born Enders, in a row over responsibilities but had failed to secure such a commitment.

Two sources said Bregier had also appealed for support to the French chairman of Airbus, Denis Ranque.

"He (Bregier) tried what was seen as a coup," a person close to the company said.

Bregier, who was in Singapore on Thursday for a ceremony involving the A380 superjumbo, could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the French government, which like the German government owns 11 per cent of Airbus, declined to comment.

The move comes a day after a source told Reuters a change of governance could not be excluded before end-year.

On Wednesday, Bregier said he was "surprised" by press reports that his position was under threat and said his sole priority was to ensure Airbus met industrial targets.

Tensions between Bregier and Enders boiled over this year in a row over who should control the powerful jet sales department.

The contest has been playing out amid broader problems caused by international fraud investigations over commercial and military sales and fears of a chain reaction of departures.

A French newspaper reported on Wednesday that Enders himself would not seek a new mandate when his term expires in 2019, but Enders told Reuters on Wednesday no decision had been taken.

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