MAS Names New CEO; Controversy Surrounds Bellew's Sudden Exit

Malaysia Airlines has announced the appointment of a new chief executive following the abrupt and unexpected departure of Peter Bellew, who is rejoining Ryanair.
The current Chief Operating Officer of the Malaysian flag carrier, Captain Izham Ismail, will become group CEO on December 1 when Bellew officially leaves the airline.

Malaysian Airlines new CEO, Izham Ismail  -  courtesy MAS
Malaysian Airlines new CEO, Izham Ismail - courtesy MAS

Before joining Malaysia Airlines, Bellew worked as flight operations director at Ryanair until 2014. He is currently on administrative leave.
Unlike his two short-lived predecessors - apart from Bellew also including Christoph Mueller who resigned less than a year into his three-year contract - Izham is a true insider having been at the carrier for 38 years.

Promoting Malaysian nationals
Izham’s appointment is in line with the succession plan put in place as part of the airline’s recovery after the disappearance of flight MH370 in March 2014, and the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine in July 2014. The recovery plan is designed to encourage the development and succession of Malaysian leadership talent, the airline said.
Izham Ismail has been with the airline for 38 years, initially as a pilot, working his way through various management positions to reach the level of Chief Operating Officer. As COO, he has been responsible for the operations division, including flight and airport operations, plus engineering.

Irreconcilable differences
Meanwhile, a report in the New Straits Times (NST) quoted an unnamed source last week saying that the reason for both Bellew and Mueller leaving MAS was due to alleged interference by Khazanah in the running of the national carrier.
Khazanah Nasional is a government-owned investment organisation which manages the sovereign wealth fund for the Government of Malaysia. The sole shareholder is the Malaysian Ministry of Finance.
“Khazanah, in actual fact, was micro-managing Malaysia Airlines. There were cases where Khazanah bypassed the MAB board,” the source said.
Mueller’s sudden exit in April last year, which shocked the aviation industry, was apparently due to irreconcilable differences between Khazanah and the German aviation turnaround expert, the NST report said.


Did Mueller, Bellew become a victim of Khazanah?
At the time, Khazanah tried to play down Mueller’s resignation, saying the 55-year-old German’s decision was due to a change in his personal circumstances.
It is believed that Bellew, like Mueller before him, could not agree on some of the decisions by Khazanah over the overall running of the national carrier.
Reacting to the NST report, Khazanah issued an official statement, saying that "the speculation based on unnamed sources in the article is both erroneous and misleading."
According to a report in The Independent newspaper, Bellew’s exit could also be due to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s sudden commitment to Boeing and U.S. President Trump that the airline would order long-range aircraft after Bellew insisted during his one year tenure that Malaysian Airlines would now focus on short-range flights.

Nol van Fenema

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