It is he - not a European, who believed Airbus could go from 18% marketshare in 1994 to 50% by year 2000, which was reached a year before in 1999. When summoned to an Airbus board meeting at in 1994 or 1995, he explained that below 20% an OEM was nothing & that even 20-40% remained a dangerous position vs. any rival, so Airbus had to grow above 40%. AB board members, including Louis Gallois - then Airbus president, didn't find him the least realistic & offered if 25-30% wouldn't be the target to aim for. Surviving a dozen European CEOs & CCOs, Airbus wouldn't have known this insolent growth ( from a US point of view ) & would certainly not be what it is today without this New Yorker & his visionary boss Jean Pierson who hired him & believed in his "mercenaire".
In fact, Jean Pierson & John Leahy are the ticket credited for launching & selling the A380 to airlines worldwide. JL is also known for coming up with "creative deals", travelling over 200 days a year, to the point Boeing was tracking him worldwide to see what airline we was talking to. I read somewhere that JL did not go for every campaign, mindful of not going much beyond 50-52% market share so as not to trigger too much retaliations from either Boeing or the US government.
Yesterday, Leeham released this article, some interesting information ( like Boeing's exclusive deals with the US3 )
Leahy reflects on 33 years at Airbus
“The 310s probably kept Pan Am alive longer than they would have stayed alive otherwise,” Leahy said. “At least they could fly internationally across the Atlantic with less than half the operating costs of those old 747-100s.”
“That was probably about the beginning of 1994, or late 1993, right when I was beginning to move over here [Toulouse]. I was in a state of shock. I remember [American Airlines officer Gerard] Arpey called me up and said, ‘John, you better think of something to do. Bob’s sitting there with Ron Woodard, who was running Boeing [Commercial] at the time, and they’re cooking up something that’s going to keep you out of competition until both you and I are long retired.”
Deal ruled illegal, but honored
The European Union had to review the merger between Boeing and McDonnell Douglas three years later and found the agreements to be illegal. Boeing agreed to abrogate the agreements, but one CEO—Crandall—years later acknowledged he did a side letter agreeing to honor the terms. It’s likely the other airlines did, too.
This article is also full of interesting anecdotes :
Selling the sky: the man who made Airbus number one
So I have 5 questions :
1. Why is he not a European citizen by now ? ( fact is he does not speak a word of French or German )
2. Why did Boeing not head hunt him ? ( JL stated Boeing never came for him )
3. More importantly : as a genius, he sees farther than most. He pulled the A380 bunny to all major airlines & most bought it. I deem the A380 idea was globally correct at launch time. But things have changed dramatically since 2001, as already discussed. So the million dollar question is : what arguments does JL have left now to give to his new designated successor Eric Schulz ?
4. I cannot but notice ES ( Eric Schulz ) comes from RR ( and Airbus before that ). EK switched to RR to engine the last batches of A380. GE is with the 777X & EA said they would not invest more. RR's answer is pending further large orders & future engine tech availability.
So what in-house arguments could ES have to continue or scrap the A380 programme ?
5. Article above states JL is staying until Jan 2018, therefore until Airbus' famous "5ft quarter". Knowing Leahy, I expect him to throw some interesting farewell show, be it his last humourous piques at his "friends in Seattle" or some unexpected contract ( on top of the Indigo deal ) to crown his career before retiring for good ( like that pending A380 deal with EK ). What do you think ?