In a surprise move Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) CEO and managing director Christoph Mueller has announced his departure from the airline effective September 2016, but intends to remain as its non-executive director.
In a statement, MAB said Mueller, who made immense contribution in the restructuring of Malaysia Airlines, had requested to depart before the end of his three-year contract due to “changing personal circumstances”.
Mueller joined the Board of Malaysia Airlines System Bhd as a non-executive director 1 Jan 1 2015 and became CEO-designate of MAB on 1 March 2015, brought on board to restructure the carrier, devastated by two major aircraft fatalities – MH370 and MH17 – and years of financial losses. The airline was taken private by state investment agency Khazanah Nasional with turn-around expert Mueller hired to oversee its overhaul.
In ensuring continuity and an orderly succession, he will serve a six-month notice period to September 2016, the airline said in a statement. “We are very disappointed to lose Mueller as CEO but we fully understand his reasons and respect his need to do this,” MAB chairman Md Nor Yusof said.
Mueller has made a significant impact in putting the airline on the desired trajectory towards full recovery, he said, adding that his hard work over the last year has seen Malaysia Airlines set on a path where there has already been encouraging progress.
Under Mueller’s tenure, Malaysia Airlines made the transition to a new company structure, embarked on a major cost-cutting plan including badly needed staff cuts and the axing of unprofitable routes and entered into a major codeshare partnership with Emirates. MASkargo recently announced a block space agreement with Azerbaijan cargo carrier Silk Way West Airlines that will see both airlines leveraging on each others’ aircraft fleet and network in different regions of the world.
In an interview with two weeks ago, Mueller described the airline as a “ship that has many leaks” but said things are back on the right track. He said the carrier recorded a profit in February, its first positive monthly result in years, and is on track to return to the black by 2018.
“There are other significant strategic decisions already in the pipeline which Mueller has made preparations for and will manage through,” Md Nor said.
“Unfortunately, personal circumstances will make it difficult for me to complete my full term,” he added according to a Bernama report. He said the airline had been restructured and repositioned to regain its leading position in customer experience and to continue to connect Malaysia with the world.
He added that he was confident that MAB was now on the right track to succeed in its next phase of growth under a new CEO. MAB said the board had also appointed chief operations officer Peter Bellew as executive director with immediate effect. He joins chief financial officer Omar Siddiq, who is already an executive director.