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EADS Strategy Chief Gut Resigns

One of the top executives of European aerospace firm EADS, strategy chief Jean-Paul Gut, announced his resignation on Monday in what he described as a rift with its French and German leaders over its structure.

Gut's departure follows weeks of speculation that he was about to leave to pursue interests in the Middle East, where he has brokered some of the Airbus parent firm's top deals.

"I have had disagreements with my employer on organisation," Gut, an EADS board member, said in an interview with French daily newspaper Le Figaro, adding that he would receive a 2.8 million euro ($3.76 million) payoff.

Le Figaro, echoing recent industry speculation, said Gut would be replaced by Marwan Lahoud, 41, the head of European missiles maker MBDA.

EADS was not immediately available for comment.

"I am leaving now because, after months of discussions, I have not reached an agreement with (EADS co-Chief Executives) Louis Gallois and Thomas Enders on the integration of marketing, sales and strategy, which I thought was necessary to face future challenges efficiently," Gut told Le Figaro.

Coming a week before the Paris Air Show, Gut's resignation is the latest tremor at EADS, which has been wrestling with management changes, aircraft delays and an insider-trading probe in the past year, but which says it is now recovering quickly.

Gut, 45, said he would set up his own company to advise French companies in areas like the Middle East, China and India.

Last month, EADS had said that Gut's departure was "not on the agenda" and dismissed a report that he would receive a pay-off of 12 million euros if he left.

Severance payments have become a heated political issue in France after EADS co-CEO Noel Forgeard left during a crisis over Airbus A380 production delays with an 8.5 million-euro package.

Forgeard's send-off caused uproar when it came to light during France's recent election campaign -- weeks after Airbus had announced 10,000 job cuts.

New French President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to ban such special payments, known as golden parachutes.

"EADS is strictly applying my contract terms, which are 24 months of salary for my 24-year length of service. I have no non-competition clause or golden parachute," Gut said.

Gut's departure also marks a final break with the era of the "Lagardere boys", a quartet of successful and ambitious young executives promoted by the late Jean-Luc Lagardere, who had merged his Matra missiles firm with French state-owned Aerospatiale before helping to found EADS in 2000.

At 28, Gut had been the youngest sales director in the global defence industry while at Matra, according to a recent book by Jean-Louis Gergorin, another Matra veteran, who stepped down last year.

Gut's successor Lahoud was trained at Aerospatiale.