Airbus Group appoints new boss for UK operation

Wed Sep 24, 2014 2:02pm EDT
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By Tim Hepher

TOULOUSE, France, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Airbus Group announced a new boss for its UK operations on Wednesday, bringing in a former executive from French defence and avionics firm Thales to oversee one of its core European manufacturing centres and defence markets.

Paul Kahn, 48, was most recently the chief executive of Thales Canada and has also worked for Ford and the UK Ministry of Defence, where he reviewed procurement processes.

He will start the new role on Oct. 1, Airbus Group said.

He will replace one of the aerospace industry's best known negotiators, Robin Southwell, 54, who told Reuters he had been considering stepping down for some time to embark on a career in private equity and pursue other interests.

Airbus Group employs 17,000 people in the UK where it builds the wings of its passenger jets, including the A380 superjumbo, and supplies defence platforms such as refuelling tankers.

Known for an outspoken but charismatic style, Southwell recently described a UK government defence discussion document as "less of a white paper and more like a white flag". Former civil servant Kahn is unlikely to display the same chutzpah.

But he betrayed a glint of steel when a newspaper asked him in 2011 how Thales managed to compete with Canadian conglomerate Bombardier while also being a partner.

"We have to be very close to them where they are our customer, and we have to try to kill them in the marketplace where they're our competitor," he told the Financial Post.   Continued...