If approved by shareholders the appointment of René Obermann will complete a management overhaul at one of Europe’s largest industrial groups
If approved by shareholders the appointment of René Obermann will complete a management overhaul at one of Europe’s largest industrial groups © Bloomberg

European aerospace group Airbus has proposed René Obermann, a former chief executive of Deutsche Telekom, as its next chairman from 2020, capping a generational shift that has taken place over the past year.

Denis Ranque, Airbus chairman, told the company’s investors at its annual general meeting on Wednesday that the board would propose Mr Obermann, a non-executive director, to succeed him. Mr Ranque had made clear last year he would not seek a renewal of his mandate after 2020.

The decision, if approved by shareholders, will complete a management overhaul at one of Europe’s largest industrial groups. At the meeting in the Netherlands, Guillaume Faury, head of Airbus commercial, was also confirmed as the new chief executive to succeed Tom Enders.

German-born Mr Obermann is a managing director of private equity investor Warburg Pincus and had been seen as the favourite to take over.

The proposed appointment would maintain the Franco-German balance at the top of the group. The French and German governments both own large shareholdings in Airbus and with German-born Mr Enders being replaced by Mr Faury, who is French, many people expected a German national would be proposed as the next chairman.

Mr Faury takes the helm of Airbus with a new team at the top. The company last year said it had hired Dominik Asam, chief financial officer at chipmaker Infineon, to replace its long-serving finance chief Harald Wilhelm, who also departed on Wednesday.

Mr Enders, who has been chief executive since 2012, leaves with an overall retirement package including future payouts under a long-term incentive plan worth €36.8m, according to company documents and corporate governance group Proxinvest. The bulk of the package is made up of Mr Enders’ pension entitlement spread over twenty years which, as of December 2018, was worth €26.3m.

The size of the package has caused controversy in France. Finance minister Bruno Le Maire told the daily newspaper Les Echos last week the figure was “obviously excessive and can damage Airbus’s reputation”.

Mr Enders has overseen a sharp rise in the company’s share price over the past few years but it still faces ongoing investigations over alleged bribery by French and British anti-corruption agencies.

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