Former Thales chairman and chief executive Denis Ranque is the frontrunner to succeed Arnaud Lagardère as chairman of Airbus parent EADS when shareholders elect a new board of directors later this year.
The succession follows agreement late last year on a new governance structure for EADS that will see the French and German governments effectively cede control of the European aerospace champion formed a decade ago with the amalgamation of national companies.
Lagardère, who has been chair since May 2012 and also chairs the eponymous media empire that controls EADS along with the French government, and Germany's Daimler and other proxies for the German government, is stepping down to focus on the management of the media business.
The EADS governance deal, reached in December and set to be enacted by an extraordinary general meeting of shareholders expected to be called during the first half of this year, was forged to allow the company to move on from an era of real or perceived government interference in its management.
The deal also frees Lagardère and Daimler to sell, on the open market, the stakes they hold on behalf of the French and German governments. Daimler has already begun selling some of its stake to German state-owned bank KfW.
In addition to Ranque, who is believed likely to emerge as chair, the current board has nominated Daimler chairman Manfred Bischoff, former Northrop Grumman and EADS director Ralph Crosby, German Industries Federation vice president Hans-Peter Keitel and former AREVA chief executive Anne Lauvergeon to join the group, alongside current directors Tom Enders, Hermann-Josef Lamberti, Lakshmi Mittal, Michel Pébereau, former European Central Bank governor Jean-Claude Trichet, Josep Piqué i Camps and Sir John Parker. In addition to Lagardère, leavers will include Dominique D'Hinnin, Wilfried Porth and Daimler's Boddo Uebber.