Air France-KLM replaces its chief exec

City A.M. Reporter
AIR FRANCE-KLM ousted its chief executive yesterday 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 improving performance would be its “top priority”.

The group said it postponed plans to reorganise into a fully fledged holding company, with integrated divisions, from the beginning of 2012 until 2013 and restored its 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 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 shares closed up 1.4 per cent after rising six per cent on newspaper leaks about the proposed board decision, which analysts said would speed up restructuring.