Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has announced that the appointment of Christoph Mueller as its managing director and group chief executive officer had been brought forward to May 1 from July. The current CEO, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, will step down on April 30 and resume his duties as a non-executive director on the board, MAS said in a statement.
The move will allow Mueller to lead the airline’s restructuring efforts and allow sufficient time for the transition into Malaysia Airlines Bhd, the new company which will contain the airline’s
operations from July 2015.
Khazanah, the sovereign investment fund, which took MAS private last year, as part of a MYR6 billion (U.S.$1.61 billion) restructuring meanwhile has approved the airline's move to issue termination letters to employees affected by the restructuring on June 1, two months later than the earlier announced date.
The “Terminator” will have to fast terminate loss-making practices…
Mueller, who will be the first foreigner to head the state-owned airline, joins Malaysia Airlines from Ireland's Aer Lingus, which he transformed in five years from an ailing carrier to an attractive takeover target for both Ryanair (which is now its biggest shareholder) and British Airways parent IAG.
Dubbed "The Terminator" in Ireland because of his rigorous actions to fix Aer Lingus, Mueller will face at Malaysia Airlines a bloated workforce, money-losing routes and political interference at the state-owned company, while he will also be battling massive competition from budget carrier rivals in the region including Asia's largest LCC, Air Asia.
When Khazanah announced Mueller's appointment in December last year, outspoken former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad took a dig at his appointment by saying that Putrajaya (the federal administrative capital of Malaysia- ed) had resorted to hiring Mueller because "Malaysians are stupid. They don't know how to manage aviation."
… and reshuffle the senior management
Another official, UMNO supreme council member, Reezal Merican Naina Merican was quoted as saying that although Mueller might be the "best expert" in the airline industry, he could have been appointed as a consultant instead of the CEO.
Meanwhile, analysts are more positive about the appointment of Mueller, describing him as an "battle-hardened" industry veteran from his work carrying out restructuring at other state-owned carriers, including former Belgium's former national airline, Sabena, which went bankrupt shortly after the 9/11 attacks.
Mueller started his career at Lufthansa, but went on to jobs in areas of the aviation industry typically scorned by executives at big carriers, including in the low-profile air cargo and competitive air charter businesses.
In a 2014 interview with Cambridge University's business school, Mueller described the first year of a restructuring as "a war situation" and hinted that he usually ends up making sweeping changes to senior management because "those responsible for existing problems tend to avoid taking responsibility."
He also noted that it is very difficult to create a "winning team from existing management," adding that: "there's nowhere more obfuscation than in the boardroom at the beginning of a turnaround."
Nol van Fenema