The ongoing battle between Airbus and Boeing for supremacy of the skies continued this week as the two commercial aviation giants announced dueling billion-dollar aircraft deals.
Boeinglong the favored plane builder among airlines based on this side of the Atlantichas struggled of late as a result of the persistent battery malfunctions that have kept its fleet of 787 Dreamliner jumbo jets grounded. Now that the Federal Aviation Administration has approved a redesign aimed at fixing the flaw, the troubled fleet is poised to retake the skies within weeks.
With the Dreamliner problems nearly behind it, Chicago-based Boeing announced Tuesday that it has reached a deal valued at $15.6 billion under which the world's second-largest commercial jet manufacturer after Airbus will provide Irish discount carrier Ryanair with 175 single-aisle 737 passenger planes.
Boeing general counsel J. Michael Luttig and Brett Gerry, assistant general counsel for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, took the lead legal advisory roles for the company on its deal with Ryanair. Gerry, a former chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukaseywho left public service in 2009 to become a partner at Debevoise & Plimptonspoke publicly last fall about the future of the company founded in 1916 by aviation industry pioneer William Boeing.
Boeing's in-house department also includes Wanda Denson-Low, a senior vice president for the company's office of internal governance. Former U.S. trade representative and current Mayer Brown consultant and strategic adviser Susan Schwab has served as an independent member of Boeing's board of directors since 2010.
Luttig joined Boeing as the company's top in-house lawyer in 2006, when he resigned from a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He made the move despite being considered a candidate to ascend to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a story at the time by sibling publication The National Law Journal. (In an unusual coincidence, the nation's high court once reviewed a case involving a man consigned to death row for killing Luttig's father. Justices Antonin Scalia, David Souter, and Clarence Thomas recused themselves from the matter because of prior relationships with Luttig.)
During his tenure at Boeing, Luttig has taken the lead on several high-profile airplane transactions, including two major deals in 2011: the $18 billion sale of 50 planes to Dubai-based Emirates Airlines and a $38 billion order for 460 commercial jets with American Airlines parent AMR on which the company teamed with Airbus, according to our previous reports.
For his efforts, Luttig is one of the nation's highest-paid in-house lawyers, according to the latest edition of sibling publication Corporate Counsel's GC Compensation Survey, which shows that the Boeing legal chief's 2011 pay package topped $2.6 million.
As for Ryanair, the Dublin-based airline's director of legal and regulatory affairs, Juliusz Komorek, did not respond to a request for comment about whether it relied on outside legal advisers for the Boeing deal, which Reuters reports will increase the discount carrier's fleet of planes from 300 to 400.
Ryanair's big Boeing buy comes about a month after European regulators blocked the company's third attempt to acquire rival Irish airline Aer Lingus Group, in which Ryanair already holds a nearly 30 percent stake thanks to an E.U. court ruling three years ago. A trio of firmstop Irish shop A&L Goodbody, Covington & Burling, and London's Monckton Chambershave taken the lead in representing Ryanair in the Aer Lingus matter.