Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fernandes says to exit as AirAsia boss ‘soon’

SEPANG, Dec 8 — AirAsia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said today he may step down as chief of Asia’s largest budget carrier soon.

According to Bernama, he dropped the hint at AirAsia’s 10th anniversary bash here today but did not provide an exact timeline.

“Next 10 years (there) will be a new CEO. My time is coming to an end soon,” he told reporters when asked where the airline will be in 10 years.

“Yes, all three of us (chairman Datuk Aziz Bakar and deputy chief executive officer Datuk Kamaruddin Meranun) will have to go together.”

The trio bought AirAsia a decade ago from DRB-Hicom for a token sum of RM1 and its liabilities when it was just a two-plane operation.

Fernandes explained that leadership was about bringing new people onboard and that AirAsia was coming to a point where there would be an “inevitable” change in leadership.

“Good leadership is to know when to go and to refresh the organisation with young and energetic leaders,” he said.

The airline’s new bosses will have to keep to its aspirations to keep fares low and explore most of the Asian region, he stressed.

Fernandes said he has yet to identify a potential successor but hinted it would be an internal change.

Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad owns 10 per cent of AirAsia after a share swap with Fernandes’ company Tune Air Sdn Bhd, which now holds 20.5 per cent of flag carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAS). Both Fernandes and Kamaruddin are also non-executive directors in MAS.

Loss-making MAS is now going through another turnaround plan with new management despite two earlier turnaround plans.

The new plan includes setting up a super premium regional airline which will not compete with AirAsia. The low-cost carrier also has operations in Thailand, Indonesia and soon in the Philippines and Japan.

Fernandes has used his fortune made from AirAsia’s success to venture into owning a Formula One racing team named Caterham F1 Team and the Queens Park Rangers football team playing in the English Premier League. He is also said to be looking to launch Caterham Jet, a premium business jet service, next year.