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AIG Hires Former Airbus Exec to Head ILFC

Posted on 19 May 2010

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American International Group Inc. (AIG) has appointed Henri Courpron, an aviation investment banker and former top Airbus executive, as chief executive of its giant airplane-leasing unit, International Lease Finance Corp.

Mr. Courpron, a 47-year-old French citizen who has worked extensively in the U.S., stepped in to fill the top job at ILFC on Tuesday. He takes charge of the world's second-largest aircraft lessor by fleet size and a company that faces big changes in its business model following the financial crisis that caused the near collapse and government rescue of ILFC's parent AIG.

ILFC had been without permanent leadership since February, when its former chairman and chief executive, Steven Udvar-Hazy, retired from the company he co-founded in 1973. One of his top lieutenants, John Plueger, briefly stepped in to head ILFC, but left in March to join a start-up aircraft lessor formed by Mr. Udvar-Hazy.

ILFC, whose business was profitable last year, didn't cause AIG's woes. But its access to funding was affected by AIG's problems. ILFC's long-term future has also been uncertain since the insurance giant deemed it a noncore business following its U.S. bailout.

"The first priority is to reassure employees, clients and business partners that ILFC is in business not to follow but to lead," Mr. Courpron said in an interview on Tuesday. "ILFC is not in a crisis—it's in a situation like many other companies that are facing a difficult financing market environment," he added.

Mr. Courpron said AIG CEO Robert Benmosche "has made it clear he expects ILFC to run as good a show as possible, to be aggressive in the marketplace … and to make aircraft acquisitions when warranted and circumstances are right."