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Airbus strategy chief Lahoud to leave European group

By Tim Hepher

By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus <AIR.PA> strategy chief Marwan Lahoud, one of the founders of Europe's largest aerospace group and its M&A czar for the past decade, is leaving the company at the end of February, Airbus said on Tuesday.

His successor was not announced but was "subject to further notice," Airbus said in a statement, suggesting no decision had yet been taken on how to replace him or with what kind of structure as the company goes through a reorganization.

Lahoud, 50, was one of a handful of strategists involved in a sequence of mergers that led to the creation in 2000 of what was then called EADS, an aerospace group with diverse interests that included the existing Airbus planemaking business.

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He was later seen as the architect of an attempted merger with UK defense giant BAE Systems Plc <BAES.L> in 2012.

The deal was called off amid German government opposition, but Lahoud was credited with salvaging corporate reforms from the deal that reduced the role of French and German governments.

EADS was later renamed Airbus Group, which in turn merged with its dominant planemaking subsidiary in January, leading to a shake-up of senior roles.

Lahoud's departure is seen as a surprise.

People close to the group have said that the internal merger, which is expected to lead to around 1,000 administrative job cuts as the group effectively squashes four headquarters-type operations into one, has led to increased in-fighting.

Lahoud expanded his responsibilities in the reorganization to include oversight of product strategy for Airbus jets that make up most of the company's revenue, but the changes had met some resistance, according to people close to the group.

Furthermore, he is widely said to have a guarded relationship with Fabrice Bregier, head of the planemaking division and company No.2, and may have calculated he had only limited chances of stepping into Bregier's shoes when the latter eventually steps up to succeed Tom Enders as chief executive officer.

A person familiar with Lahoud's decision said earlier that he had decided in late 2016 not to renew his mandate as he had concluded that his role was no longer necessary.

"With the creation of one single Airbus, we finally accomplished the ultimate merger. Now, it's time for me to move on and I am now looking forward to embracing new challenges," Lahoud said in a company statement.

The statement did not say what Lahoud, who is also president of France's GIFAS aerospace industry lobby, planned to do next.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Adrian Croft and Lisa Shumaker)