French aerospace executive Louis Gallois Thursday handed the reins of European group EADS NV (IW 1000/56) over to German Tom Enders at a meeting marked by the notable absence of shareholder Arnaud Lagardere.
Gallois received warm applause as he thanked fellow EADS directors and personnel before taking questions from shareholders who were present at a general assembly in Amsterdam.
Enders, who has been chief executive of Airbus, EADS' main division, was named to the parent company's 11-member board along with Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the European Central Bank.
The board formally elected Lagardere chairman and Enders chief executive of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. at the conclusion of the annual meeting.
Seven members of the EADS board did not show up for the annual meeting.
Lagardere is head of Sogeade, a structure that controls 22.35% of the capital in EADS, including a 7.5% stake owned by Lagardere and the rest which belongs to the French state.
He failed to show up for the annual meeting however, leaving outgoing EADS chairman Bodo Uebber to tell shareholders: "Arnaud Lagardere excused himself yesterday evening. He had important things to do. I'm sorry."
Lagardere spokesman Ramzi Khiroun told AFP: "Arnaud Lagardere is not at the general meeting as he still considers Bodo Uebber to be the chairman.
Until he [Lagardere] has been named, it is normal that Mr. Uebber should preside" the shareholders meeting.
Lagardere, 50, is frequently absent from EADS board meetings, a source close to the company said.
Son of one of EADS' founders, Jean-Luc Lagardere, Arnaud has not hidden his lack of enthusiasm for the aerospace sector, or his desire to unload the stake he owns in EADS.
The Lagardere group's second representative on the EADS board, Dominique D'Hinnin, was also absent Thursday, as was another high-profile director, Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal.
Four other board members failed to show as well.
"They all excused themselves," Uebber said.
Lagardere was represented by Sogead director Norbert Giaoui.
EADS was created in 2000 through the merger of activities owned by Jean-Luc Lagardere with others within the German group DASA, owned by Daimler, and the Spanish company CASA.
EADS is now the second biggest aerospace and defense group in the world, after rival Boeing.
The European conglomerate employs 133,000 people and manufactures Airbus passenger and military planes, Eurocopter helicopters, Ariane rockets and unmanned drone aircraft.
Sources within the company said that Fabrice Bregier of France would become the new head of Airbus.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012