Yesterday I saw John Leahy, Airbus sales chief, in the corridors of the company for the first time since I arrived to Toulouse. At night, I found via Twitter this special report about him by Reuters.
The report is a very interesting piece, and reading in it about Jean Pierson reminded me of a very curious story I heard some years ago and I wanted to recall for you (this is the only reason for this post).
Pierson was the CEO of Airbus from 1985 to 1998. The story I am talking about appears described in the book “Boeing versus Airbus”, by John Newhouse (I haven’t yet read it but is in my wish list). Let me extract the summary that Reuters gave in this other article.
Pierson […] was at US Airways’ headquarters for what he thought would be a short meeting to tie up a 400-plane deal, the anecdote runs.
At the last minute, US Airways’ then-chairman Stephen Wolf started arguing for a 5 percent discount on the selling price.
“Pierson began slowly lowering his trousers and saying ‘I have nothing more to give.’ He then allowed the trousers to fall around his ankles,” says Newhouse in his book.
Wolf replied: “Pull up your pants. I don’t need any more money,” and the deal was signed, according to the book. The author says he got the story from Pierson himself, and it was confirmed by another person present.
Shortly afterward, US Airways announced the purchase of 124 single-aisle Airbus A320 family jets with options for 276 more, a stab into the heart of Boeing’s competing 737 program. It put the European company on track to overtake Boeing in global orders only two years later.
If the situation ever calls for me to drop my trousers I hope there is no one nearby with the intention of reporting it in a book :-).