On July 25, 45 years to the day after France, Germany and Britain authorized Beteille to start planning “the airbus”, Enders won the support of the EADS board to pursue the idea of an audacious merger with BAE Systems of the UK.
The would-be deal was never given more than a 50 percent chance of success, according to people on both sides. But political hurdles were thought to be highest in France or Britain - two long-term, fiercely patriotic rivals - or in the United States, where BAE’s status as a privileged foreign contractor might be questioned. Few expected Germany to object.
The merger would create an integrated aerospace and defense firm bigger than Boeing, and an undisputed European champion with a strong presence in the lucrative U.S. market to boot.
Enders believed the ambitious nature of the deal alone would help overcome any government opposition. By giving Germany, France and Britain a “golden share” that allowed them to block future takeovers, he also hoped they would agree to pare back their day-to-day involvement in the firm - a dream that was dashed when the French insisted on retaining their stake in EADS.
But the Germans, suspicious of Enders, wary of French motives and already seething over waning influence within EADS, smelled a rat.
Hintze was against the deal from the start and wasn’t shy about letting his bosses know. The 62-year-old Protestant pastor from a small town on the Rhine river had got to know Merkel - herself the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman - in the years after German reunification. Their ties ran deep. He was among the first people she named to her team after becoming minister for youth and family under Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1991. Seven years later she succeeded Hintze as general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
While the French and British quickly appointed senior officials to oversee the talks and formulate a list of “red line” demands, Berlin stayed silent.
In late August, Enders was due to accompany Merkel on a trip to China - the perfect opportunity to talk the deal through in person. But the thrill-seeking 53-year-old, a former paratrooper who studied at UCLA in California, tore ligaments in his arm in a hang-gliding accident and had to cancel at the last minute.