Earlier this year Etihad’s CEO, James Hogan, stepped down from his position. Rather than focusing on building Etihad as an airline, under his leadership Etihad invested in all kinds of other airlines, including airberlin and Alitalia. It would be quite an understatement to say that this strategy has been a disaster. I love Etihad as such and love the people who work there, but I can’t help but think that his departure was long overdue.
While Etihad appointed an interim CEO, they had been searching for a permanent replacement for months, though understandably you’re not always going to find the right candidate for such a position quickly. I was expecting Etihad to find an airline CEO with a track record of running a profitable airline, or one who has a track record of turning around airlines. For example, there were rumors that Christoph Mueller, Malaysia’s former CEO who is now at Emirates, might move over to Etihad.
Well, Etihad has now appointed a new CEO, and his background is a bit different than I was expecting. Tony Douglas has been appointed the new CEO of Etihad Aviation Group (which is different than the CEO of the airline as such, who will continue to be Peter Baumgartner). I had never heard the name before this, so here’s how the press release describes him:
Mr. Douglas joins Etihad from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, where he has served as CEO of the Defence Equipment and Support department, responsible for procuring and supporting all the equipment and services for the British Armed Forces.
In the UK, he held senior positions with airport operator BAA, and as Chief Operating Officer and Group Chief Executive designate of Laing O’Rourke. His roles under airport operator BAA included Managing Director of the Heathrow Terminal 5 project, Group Supply Chain Director, Group Technical Director, and CEO of Heathrow Airport.
Previously, Mr. Douglas held senior positions in the UAE, most notably as CEO of Abu Dhabi Airports Company and as CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports Company where he was responsible for the successful delivery of Khalifa Port.
That’s an interesting choice. While not what I was expecting for the role, he has experience with airports and has work experience in the UAE, so I can see how they chose him. At the same time, I would think running airports and other governments projects is a little bit different than running an airline (well, maybe in the UAE running an airline is sort of like a government project). 😉
Good luck to Douglas — there’s a lot to be fixed at Etihad, though on the plus side, the overall Etihad Aviation Group would be hard pressed to perform worse than it did under Hogan.
What do you make of Etihad’s choice of CEO?