With Bellew returning to Ryanair, which he says is akin to national service, speculation is rife on who will be his successor.
- Though caught by surprise, Transport Minister says Bellew’s sudden exit will not affect the airline’s road to recovery
- Bellew denies Khazanah interfered in running the airline and that was the reason for his sudden resignation
- Khazanah would be appointing successor, with speculation rife on leading contenders for the post
On Monday, news broke of Peter Bellew rejoining Ryanair, his former employer, as its chief operations officer.
The announcement by Ryanair and subsequent confirmation by Bellew caught many by surprise, including Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and the board of Malaysia Airlines Berhad (MAB) who called it “unexpected”.
MAB noted that Bellew had “expressed his commitment to Malaysia Airlines” at a press conference on Sept 27 when asked about speculation that he would re-join Ryanair.
Liow said there were no indications pointing to the former’s exit, but added that Bellew’s resignation will not affect MAB’s road to recovery.
“We are confident that the MAS transformation will continue irrespective of who is the new chief executive officer,” he told reporters.
He also said that the successor would be appointed by Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the airline’s owner.
Following news of the surprise resignation, two local media reports claimed that according to their sources, who were not named, the reason for both Bellew and his predecessor Christoph Mueller leaving was apparently due to alleged interference by Khazanah in the running of the national carrier.
Mueller also quit suddenly in April 2016 after only one year at the job.
According to the reports, their sources laid the blame on Khazanah for “micro-managing” the airline and “bypassing” the MAB board.
In response, Khazanah issued a statement that the speculation based on unnamed sources is “both erroneous and misleading”.
It added that it has worked closely together with the board of MAB “to deliver the progress of the on-going restructuring to date”.
Yesterday, Bellew denied suggestions that interference from Khazanah in managing the flag carrier was the reason for his sudden resignation.
“There has been no interference.
“People always ask me how do I cope with government interference. There has been none for me. Zero interference,” Bellew said in a statement.
He said Khazanah had been “incredibly supportive to me personally and corporately”.
“I tried to be transparent on a daily basis, included them in most significant meetings and dragged their staff to work for us! It has worked well.
“Although possibly I drove Khazanah mad with my constant questions and wish for consensus. I cannot thank them enough for accelerating our transformation. Tan Sri Azman (Mokhtar, Khazanah’s group managing director) could not have been more supportive,” he said.
“So why am I leaving. Negaraku. Love for country is pulling me back to Ireland,” Bellew added.
The Irishman explained that he turned down Ryanair when he was offered the job last month, but changed his mind two weeks ago.
“When I was asked on 27th Sept would I go to Ryanair I said no. But a week later the call came and in life we can really never say never. I am looking forward to being close again to my family and friends 14 hours away in Ireland.
“It is Ireland’s greatest company. They need my help and there is a big challenge. It is a form of national service,” he said.
Bellew called Malaysia Airlines “special”.
He said it was not just an airline “but one of the earliest symbols of the vibrancy of this amazing country”.
“People who have never flown in their life love it. Most of the country hopes it will thrive and be the Pride of the Nation again,” he said.
Bellew said that although it would be tough to fix the problems within the airline, success was “just within our grasp”.
He said the airline needed just another 4-5% in revenue monthly and it should see profits.
“The second quarter revenue increased 7%. The product is improving visibly: new widebody planes, new lounges, new loyalty programme, new website and better operations in Kuala Lumpur. Still some work needed on the food! Lots done – lots more to do.
“Please don’t change the brand! Much work has been done globally through the media and travel agents to rebuild our heritage.
“People love what Malaysia Airlines stands for. The brand is now revived from China to the UK and down to Australia. That work must continue and will yield the 5%+ revenue growth (needed to turn the corner),” Bellew said.
Bellew was appointed chief executive officer in July 1 last year, taking over from Mueller.
He was reportedly on a three-year contract, which was supposed to end in June 2019.
He joins Irish budget airline Ryanair from Dec 1.
The Internet is already abuzz with speculation on Bellew’s successor, with NST reporting Mass Rapid Transit Corp chief executive officer Datuk Seri Shahril Mokhtar and Malaysia Airlines chief financial officer Omar Siddiq Amin Noer Rashid as among the top contenders for the post.
Shahril was touted as a possible candidate when Mueller left the airline last year, the report said.
Earlier report: Oct 17, Peter Bellew Exits Malaysia Airlines, Returning to Ryanair