Top official quitting Airbus’ parent firm

PARIS – EADS Deputy Chief Executive Jean-Paul Gut, tasked with overseeing the plans and strategies of Airbus’ parent, is quitting following “a divergence in views,” the company said Monday.

Gut, the chief operating officer for marketing, strategy and global development, will step down on Oct. 1 with 2.8 million euros ($3.74 million) in pay, representing two years of salary. EADS and Gut said the payoff complies with the terms of his employment contract – a month of pay for each year with the company.

“This sum might seem high,” Gut said in an interview with France’s Le Figaro on Monday. “I can understand this but I think there is nothing shocking. I have no no-competition clause nor a golden parachute.”

The company was criticized widely after co-chief executive Noel Forgeard was ousted with an 8.5 million euro ($11.35 million) severance package.

European Aeronautic Defense &Space Co. NV, the parent of Airbus, has been wracked by financial problems caused by delays to the A380 superjumbo and by strife over planned job cuts.

Gut, in the Figaro interview, admitted he knew of the delays but denied they prompted him to sell shares.

“When I exercised my stock options, I didn’t have any information that allowed me to think that the Airbus delays would have an impact on the EADS accounts,” he told Le Figaro.

Gut was interviewed last month as part of a probe by market regulator AMF into possible insider trading. The probe focuses on the sale of millions of euros worth of shares by top EADS executives in March and April 2006, weeks before the company announced major delays to the A380 that sent the stock price tumbling 26 percent in one day. The shares have still not fully recovered.

EADS shares rose 1.8 percent to 22.69 euros in Paris Monday.

In a statement, EADS said Gut’s departure followed “a divergence of views of the organization of the sales and marketing function within the group.” Despite the decision, EADS said that it had no argument with Gut over the company’s strategy and praised his “remarkable qualities.”

Company spokeswoman Gaelle Pellerin said Gut’s departure was a mutual decision after EADS’ board and Gut were unable to overcome differences. Gut wanted to centralize sales and management functions, while the company felt some of the decisions belong to division heads, she said. “They couldn’t find an agreement so they decided to separate,” she said.

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