Leahy sees several more years as Boeing's enemy No.1

Mon Mar 5, 2012 11:25am EST
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - John Leahy, the American supersalesman who propelled Airbus from European upstart to the world's largest maker of passenger jets, disclosed he has no plans to retire for several years from a post which has made him Boeing's (BA.N: Quote) most visible adversary.

Leahy, 62, has been in charge of Airbus sales since arriving in Toulouse in 1994. Since then, the planemaker says it has sold more than 10,000 aircraft worth 1 trillion dollars at list prices, or four out of five of the Airbus jets ever built.

Speaking as France embraced the energetic New Yorker with a long-awaited honor, Leahy told Reuters he expected to stay on for some time, serving incoming Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier.

"I am 62 and I am going to retire at some point; I don't expect to retire in the immediate future, though," Leahy said in an interview. "I would expect to be here for several more years."

Since 1994 Leahy has increased Airbus's market share from 19 percent to 64 percent, served six Airbus chief executives and outlasted eight sales chiefs at Boeing, where he appears to relish his reputation as commercial enemy number one.

Recent record sales of a revamped Airbus model and the prospect of Airbus top management changes due in June, had raised questions over how long Leahy, a dominant figure in the $100 billion annual jetliner industry, would stay in his post.

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders is due to replace Louis Gallois as head of parent company EADS EAD.PA in June.

His designated successor Bregier and Leahy are "not close but respect each other's ground," an Airbus executive told Reuters last year. Bregier is expected to announce his organization in the summer.   Continued...

Airbus sales chief John Leahy poses during a photo session at Airbus head office in Blagnac near Toulouse, southwestern France, January 14, 2011. REUTERS/Jean-Philippe Arles