AirAsia India appoints Tata Steel's Sunil Bhaskaran as new CEO
11 October 2018
AirAsia India has appointed Sunil Bhaskaran, a longtime employee of the Tata Group, and currently working as vice-president (corporate affairs) at Tata Steel, as its chief executive officer (CEO).
The airline also announced a restructuring of its board, with AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes and deputy group CEO Bo Lingam stepping down. The current chairman, S Ramadorai, is also expected to be replaced by Banmali Agrawala, who heads Tata Group’s defence and aerospace business, according to reports.
Tata Sons, the holding company, will also buy out the 2 per cent stake held by Tata veterans S Ramadorai and R Venkataramanan, retaining 51 per cent stake in the airline JV.
Tata Sons and Tony Fernandes were holding 49 per cent stake each in the airline, while Ramadorai and R Venkataramanan held the remaining 2 per cent.
Four senior positions on AirAsia India board were lying vacant for the past five months.
AirAsia India announced the appointment of the new CEO and the resignation of Fernandes and Bo Lingam from the board of directors in a late night statement.
Referring to the restructuring as a “clean-up act”, sources said the restructuring implies that Tatas will manage the AirAsia India operations.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had in May named Fernandes, Bo Lingam, and Venkataramanan, managing trustee at Tata Trusts and director at AirAsia, in an FIR, alleging they paid money to middlemen for bribes to public servants for securing an air operator’s permit.
With AirAsia India coming under the scanner, there was delay in Tata group's other airline venture, Vistara, getting government nod for international flights.
The new CEO will be tasked with the job of setting up a team and steady the operations of the airline.
Although Tata Sons with a majority stake in the JV, had the right to appoint a CEO, Fernandes has been running the show so far with earlier appointments of Mittu Chandilya and Amar Abrol as CEOs.
It was only last year that a former executive of Tata Power, Deepak Mahendra, was appointed chief financial officer at AirAsia India.
Fernandes is believed to have stepped down from the AirAsia India board on August 2, three days after the FIR linked to the airline’s Indian business was filed. Bo Lingam resigned on September 4.
Since its inception in June 2014, AirAsia India has seen frequent top-level churn, including the exit of two chief executive officers and three chief commercial officers.
AirAsia India has come under heavy weather after ousted Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry alleged that fraudulent transactions amounting to Rs22 crore were carried out in AirAsia India.