Thales’s number two favorite to lead Naval Group

EXCLUSIVE Pierre-Eric Pommellet, CEO of Thales, was chosen by the APE to succeed Hervé Guillou as head of Naval Group. His name has yet to be endorsed by the Elysee.

Thales Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Eric Pommellet, here with Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier

Other names have circulated, such as that of Naval Group Deputy Director General Alain Guillou, that of Program Director Olivier de la Bourdonnaye or that of Marie-Pierre de Bailliencourt, former CEO of the group, who had been one of the great craftsmen of the Australian Submarine Contract of the Century. The name of Benoît Ribadeau-Dumas, chief of staff to Edouard Philippe and formerly of Thales and Zodiac, had also been mentioned, to the annoyance of the person concerned. The scenario of an extension of Hervé Guillou was also mentioned: this one being affected by the age limit of 65 years on March 24, such a project would require a change of the statutes of the group.

Pierre-Eric Pommellet is anything but an unknown for the small middle of the defense. Born in Brest, this affable polytechnician, nicknamed “PEP”, started at the General Directorate of Armaments in 1990, before spending two years at the DCN (Directorate of Naval Construction), the ancestor of Naval Group. A passage in ministerial cabinet later, with Jean-Pierre Raffarin at the Ministry of Crafts, Trade and SMEs, he joined Thales where he gradually climbed the ranks: director of the Haillan plant (Gironde), director of military equipment, director of the aerospace division, then that of defense mission systems.

When Thales boss Jean-Bernard Lévy left for EDF at the end of 2014, Pierre-Eric Pommellet was one of the favorites for the CEO chair. It can even take advantage of the support of Dassault Aviation, a 25% shareholder of the group. But the board ultimately prefers Patrice Caine. This disappointment will not prevent the two men from working well together: Patrice Caine will even appoint Pierre-Eric Pommellet general manager in charge of operations, clearly number two in the group. “The understanding between the two men is very good”, assures a connoisseur of the Thales house.

If it has yet to be confirmed at the Elysee Palace, the possible appointment of the Breton at the head of Naval Group is already making waves