Airbus has picked Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace president Eric Schulz to replace the retiring John Leahy as the European airframer’s sales chief in a highly anticipated move not originally expected to involve a company outsider. Schulz, 54, assumes the post of Airbus Commercial Aircraft chief of sales for marketing and contracts at the end of January, when Leahy steps down as COO for customers after 23 years of serving as the company’s top salesman and, to many, the face of Europe’s most prominent aerospace company. Schulz will report directly to Airbus CEO Tom Enders while Leahy remains “for a few months’ transition period.”
“We are glad to have Eric Schulz joining our team,” said Enders in a written statement. “He has broad international experience in the aerospace industry, a deep understanding of airline operations and aero engines as well as a proven track record in building and effectively leading organizations in complex environments. This combination of skills and experience makes Eric the right pick to succeed John Leahy at a critical juncture of our company’s development.”
Schulz’s name rose to the top of Airbus’s list of choices for the position after executive vice president Kiran Rao withdrew from consideration in early November.
Schulz started his career in 1986 with Aerospatiale-Sogerma and has since held senior management positions with UTA, Air France, AOM, Air Liberté-British Airways, Goodrich, EADS and Rolls-Royce. He holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Geneva Engineering School and in aeronautical engineering from Paris’s ESTA Engineering and Technology School.
Known to airlines around the world as “Mr. Airbus,” Leahy joined the company in 1985 after a tenure with Piper Aircraft. Under Leahy’s leadership, Airbus has sold more than 16,000 aircraft, accounting for 90 percent of all Airbus aircraft ever sold.
“There are not enough words to express the gratitude I feel for John Leahy both on a professional and personal level,” said Enders. “His contribution to Airbus’ commercial aircraft business is epic. His relentless efforts, his vision and his dedication were key factors in propelling the company from an industry underdog to a world leader. No matter how hard the challenge I have never seen John give up on anything. His tremendous fighting spirit and his unwavering loyalty to the Airbus flag have made him an inspiration for many, including me. He has become a good personal friend and I wish him a restful and well-deserved retirement.”