EADS Renews Board With Directors Giving Enders Political Freedom

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. named the members of its future board following an overhaul of its shareholder structure, as Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders seeks greater freedom from political meddling.

The proposed directors including French nationals Denis Ranque and Anne Lauvergeon, both possible candidates to head the board of the parent of planemaker Airbus SAS. Germans Manfred Bischoff, a former co-chairman of EADS, and Hans-Peter Keitel, ex-chief executive officer of builder Hochtief AG, are also joining, according to a statement by EADS yesterday.

EADS, which will confirm the appointments at an extraordinary general meeting, didn’t specify who will replace Arnaud Lagardere as chairman following an investor shuffle last year. The job is regarded as certain go to a French person in order to preserve a delicate national balance at the company, whose CEO is Tom Enders, himself a German national.

“The new board of directors, once it is voted upon by the EGM, will determine whom it wishes to elect as chairman at its inaugural meeting,” EADS said today in a statement.

Lagardere, whose namesake French publishing company is a long-time EADS shareholder, held the post only since last year, after taking over from Bodo Uebber, the finance chief of Daimler AG, another EADS stakeholder. Enders has said he wants to turn EADS into a company unrestrained by government involvement, a desire highlighted by Germany’s refusal to back Enders’s planned merger with BAE Systems Plc last year.

Positioning Candidates

While the French government has been pushing Lauvergeon, a former CEO of nuclear-reactor maker Areva SA, Enders has been keen to rid EADS of government meddling, suggesting he would be unlikely to encourage directors to pick someone promoted by President Francois Hollande. That may leave Ranque, the ex-CEO of defense-electronics specialist Thales SA, as favorite.

An investor shuffle last year followed EADS’s failed bid to merge with BAE in October. Germany joined France and Spain as a government shareholder, getting a 12 percent stake to match the French side. Carmaker Daimler AG and Paris-based publisher Lagardere SCA have been reducing their stakes.

The full slate of directors proposed today is Bischoff, Enders, Keitel, Lauvergeon and Ranque plus retained members Hermann-Josef Lamberti, Lakshmi Mittal, John Parker, Michel Pebereau, Josep Pique Camps and Jean-Claude Trichet, together with Ralph D. Crosby, who has served on the EADS board before.

Directors leaving are Dominique D’Hinnin, Wilfried Porth and Juan Manuel Eguiagaray Ucelay.

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