Air France-KLM ousts chief as it looks to restructure

City A.M. Reporter
Air France-KLM Shas ousted its chief executive and recalled the chief architects of the Franco-Dutch merger with a brief to eradicate losses while preparing for an anointed successor.

Europe's largest airline by revenues, which has fallen behind peers due to a cocktail of costs, debts and competition, said after board talks that recovery and the improvement of performance would be its "top priority."

The group said it postponed plans to reorganise into a full fledged holding company, with integrated divisions, from the beginning of 2012 until 2013 and restored its tried-and-tested old guard to run things in the interim.

Jean-Cyril Spinetta will remain chairman and resume his previous role as chief executive, replacing Pierre-Henri Gourgeon who resigned from the post he had held since January 2009.

Leo Van Wijk, who together with Air France's Spinetta masterminded the 2004 merger of French and Dutch carriers from the KLM side, will be deputy chief executive, the group said.

The holding company move is seen as a necessary precursor to possible future acquisitions.

Air France-KLM also put in place the man widely seen as most likely to become chief executive - former defence executive Alexandre de Juniac, who has been appointed as the head of Air France, the most troubled and strike-prone part of the grou.