29 Nov 04. The FT reported that DaimlerChrysler has vetoed attempts by Jacques Chirac, the president of France, to put a Frenchman in sole charge of EADS, majority owner of Airbus.
The German carmaker, the largest shareholder in the Franco-German aerospace and defence group, has agreed in principle with other big shareholders to stick to the dual chief executive structure when it expires next summer.
Sources in Paris and Berlin said Mr Chirac had backed down in his attempts to push Noël Forgeard, the French chief executive of Airbus, as a single head for EADS, under pressure from Daimler.
“This idea of one chief executive alone is really at this stage dead,” said one person close to Lagardère, the French media group that owns 15 per cent of EADS. Jürgen Schrempp, chief executive of Daimler, is understood to have insisted on maintaining the status quo of two chief executives, one French and one German. But he is thought to be neutral between the two main French candidates, Mr Forgeard and current co-chief Philippe Camus.
The competition for the top job came into the open last week when Mr Forgeard and Mr Camus both publicly declared their interest. Mr Camus said he supported the existing structure and wanted to stay in the post, while Mr Forgeard said there was no need to have a split role between French and German co-chiefs.
The structure after the chief executives’ contracts expire next July will be formally agreed at a board meeting before Christmas. But the continuation of the current dual system is understood to have been agreed in private talks between Lagardère, Daimler, which has 30 per cent of EADS, and the French government, with 15 per cent. The share price fell 6.2 per cent last week as the public wrangling added to pressure from the weak dollar and high oil price. It also became clear the French government had stepped back from attempts to broker a merger of EADS and Thales, the French defence electronics group, amid concerns in Germany the merged entity would be French-dominated. Daimler is thought to be open to EADS taking parts of Thales if it is broken up.