Malaysia Airlines’ CEO Christoph Mueller Resigns Over ‘Changing Personal Circumstances’

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KUALA LUMPUR, Apr 19 – Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s Chief Executive and Managing Director Christoph Mueller is quitting after only one year at the helm of the ailing national carrier due to “changing personal circumstances”, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mueller, who assumed the CEO post in May last year, had signed a three-year contract with the heavy task of reviving the airline that he declared last June to be “technically bankrupt”. The statement said Mueller will leave in September, but intends to remain on the MAB board as a non-executive director.

It said the board “has commenced a search for a new CEO which will encompass both internal and external potential candidates. In a circular e-mailed to staff and seen by Kyodo News, Mueller said his decision to leave is due to “personal reasons which are beyond my control”.

Mueller who has a reputation as “The Terminator” for the job cuts he executed when he was chief executive of Aer Lingus of Ireland, was brought in by Malaysia sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd as part of its six billion ringgit (US$1.5 billion) recovery plan for MAB.

The plan unveiled in August 2014 involved delisting the company and making it wholly owned by Khazanah, cutting 6,000 jobs and doing away with unprofitable routes. Years of mismanagement coupled with stiff competition has seen the airline company bleed heavily. Between 2011 and 2013, it lost a total of 4.1 billion ringgit.

Mueller was reported as saying early this month that the company lost two billion ringgit last year. To add to its woes, the company was hit by the twin tragedies of flights MH370 and MH17. MH370 disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014 while en route to Beijing with 239 on board.

Four months later, on July 17, MH17 was shot down over conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people on board. Mueller had previously said that for the airline to be sustainable, it needed a “hard reset” by cutting costs by 20 per cent with the aim of enabling it to “break even” by 2018.

In his email to MAB staff, he said he believes he is leaving the company on sound footing. “As you know we have already seen a profit in February and we are also ahead of budget which gives a strong indication that our turnaround initiatives are pulling through faster than expected,” he said. Mueller signed off with “The show must go on!”

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