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AIG Names Ex-Airbus Executive Courpron to Lead ILFC Plane-Leasing Division

American International Group Inc. named Henri Courpron, a former Airbus SAS manager, to be chief executive officer of the bailed-out insurer’s plane-leasing unit and expand its fleet of aircraft.

Courpron, 47, takes over as CEO of International Lease Finance Corp. from Alan Lund, who held the post on an interim basis after the retirement of John Plueger in March, less than two months after founder Steven Udvar-Hazy stepped down. Courpron will work in Los Angeles, where ILFC is based, according to a statement today from AIG.

ILFC regained access to outside funding this year after being shut out of the credit markets because of downgrades of New York-based AIG, which needed a 2008 government rescue that swelled to $182.3 billion. AIG on May 7 opted for the first time in four quarters against extending the period in which it is committed to supporting ILFC, saying the unit’s finances improved after selling planes and accessing debt markets.

“Having stabilized the company’s financial position, ILFC is now ready to begin growing its fleet,” AIG CEO Robert Benmosche said in the statement. Benmosche said Courpron is “one of the aviation industry’s most experienced leaders.”

Courpron will earn a base cash salary of $975,000 a year and stock salary of $1.68 million that rises to $3.23 million in 2012 under a long-term performance program, ILFC said in a filing. His annual incentive target is $2.75 million for this year and 2011, the firm said. Courpron will be reimbursed for expenses tied to moving from France, ILFC said.

‘Newly Obtained Flexibility’

Courpron’s aviation career started 23 years ago at Aérospatiale + Airbus-France, and he held positions through 2007 including executive vice president of procurement and CEO of Airbus North America Holdings, AIG said. He was most recently a president at the Seabury Group, an aviation advisory and investment banking firm. ILFC, with about 1,000 aircraft, is among the biggest customers for Boeing Co. and Airbus.

ILFC raised about $8 billion in March and April as the insurer issued debt and amended credit facilities, Mark Herr, a spokesman for AIG, said today in an e-mail. The insurer “will use this newly obtained flexibility to build the company,” he said.

Credit-default swaps used to hedge against losses on ILFC debt jumped 50 basis points to a mid-price of 625 basis points, the highest since March 9, according to broker Phoenix Partners Group. The swaps typically climb when investor confidence wanes.

No Extension

AIG said this month it intends to provide support to ILFC and a consumer-lending unit through Feb. 28, 2011, the same date the company gave in its annual report in February. “At the current time AIG believes that any further extension of such support will not be necessary,” the insurer said. AIG had previously announced three-month extensions in August and November of last year and February of this year.

Benmosche, 65, told employees shortly after joining AIG in August that he would build businesses rather than liquidating them. In March he announced deals to raise about $51 billion by divesting two life insurance divisions, which he said put AIG “on a path” to repaying taxpayers.

ILFC posted a $56 million operating loss in the three months through March 31 on an impairment charge tied to aircraft sales, compared with the unit’s $316 million profit in the year-earlier period, AIG said May 7. The unit agreed in April to sell 53 planes for about $2 billion.

Courpron’s long-term-performance compensation is subject to approval from the office of Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s special master on executive pay, AIG said.

Feinberg controls pay for AIG’s 25 highest-paid employees and instituted a $500,000 base salary cap for most workers. He has made exceptions for those deemed critical to AIG’s success, including Benmosche, whose compensation totals $7 million in salary and $3.5 million in long-term incentives.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hugh Son in New York at hson1@bloomberg.net;

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