Fyfe's Air NZ tenure '8/10' - analyst

By NZ Herald Online staff, BusinessDesk

Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe. Photo / NZPA
Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe. Photo / NZPA

Air New Zealand chief executive officer Rob Fyfe has resigned.

Fyfe, who has been in charge at the national carrier since 2005, this morning confirmed he would be leaving his post at the end of the year.

His decision was made partly to allow the airline's "talented and capable" executives the room to realise their full potential he said.

"After almost a decade at Air New Zealand, I am an Air New Zealander to the core and I live and breathe Air New Zealand every day. At the same time I'm very conscious that I am surrounded by many very talented and capable executives and if they are to grow and realise their full potential I have to create the space to allow them to do so," he says.

Fyfe said he was proud of his role in improving the financial situation of Air New Zealand since inheriting significant economic challenges when he took the role.

"While many of the challenges were evident at the outset, many unexpected hurdles also emerged.

That is the nature of the aviation industry, and I continue to be proud of how Air New Zealanders rally around to support each other."

Fyfe was appointed in October 2005, taking the helm from corporate high flier Ralph Norris. The shares peaked above $16 in 1995 and had tumbled to around $1.10 by the time Fyfe was appointed. They fell 1.1 percent to 90 cents on the NZX today.

The government has flagged its three-quarters stake in the airline as among assets it plans to sell down over the next few years. It intends to retain a holding of just over 50 percent.

Board chairman John Palmer praised Fyfe's contribution to the airline.

He credited him with allowing Air New Zealand to remain profitable while other airlines lost billions of dollars in the global economic crisis.

"Alongside this Air New Zealand's innovations, high customer satisfaction ratings and culture have become the envy of airlines around the world. Rob's leadership skills have also been acknowledged internationally."

Palmer said he expected strong international field of candidates applying to be Fyfe's replacement.

Mint Asset Management portfolio manager Shane Solly said Fyfe's tenure would rate an eight out of ten.

He said Fyfe had done an excellent job shepherding the company through the global financial crisis and leaving it in a solid economic position for his replacement.

"He's done a good job on a sticky wicket as they say."

"In one of the most difficult financial environments ever, he's kept the airline viable in a time where others have not been able to."

Fyfe had established a strong workplace culture and acted as a conduit between the airline's board and senior management, Solly said.

His resignation had been flagged for some time and would not surprise investors, he said.

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