Jet Airways CEO Cramer Ball resigns

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Mumbai:Cramer Ball has resigned as chief executive of Jet Airways (India) Ltd, the country’s second-largest airline by passengers, to pursue a new opportunity in Europe for family reasons. Ball’s resignation is effective from 29 February.

Gaurang Shetty, a whole-time director, will become acting chief executive officer of the company, in which Etihad Airways PJSC has a 24% stake, the airline said in a statement on Thursday.

Shetty will lead the operating committee in managing the day-to-day operations of the company, under the supervision and control of the board of the company, chaired by founder Naresh Goyal, the airline said.

Ball had taken charge as chief executive officer on 25 September 2014. He was considered the representative of Etihad Airways as he was heading Air Seychelles, a strategic partner of Etihad.

Before joining Air Seychelles, Ball was regional general manager for Asia Pacific South and Australasia at Etihad Airways, which holds 40% equity in Air Seychelles.

Frequent exits of chief executives is nothing new for Goyal’s Jet Airways.

While Ball had spent barely a year and three months at Jet Airways, his immediate predecessor Gary Kenneth Toomey stepped down after a even shorter stint. He was CEO for barely seven months.

Toomey, an Australian national, took charge of Jet Airways in mid-June 2013 following resignation of Nikos Kardassis, who left the airline after serving his second term as chief executive officer from October 2009 to May 2013. Kardassis had earlier headed the airline between 1993 and 1999.

Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, the current chief executive officer at low-fare airline Go Airlines (India) Ltd, which runs GoAir was also chief executive officer of Jet Airways between 2003 and 2009.

“Ball’s exit is proving a point that Etihad Airways appointed CEO is not working anymore. Either Goyal is not comfortable with Etihad Airways’ CEOs or Etihad Airways CEOs are not convinced with Goyal’s strategy. Now, Jet Airways will have to find out an Indian CEO to lead or a CEO who is comfortable with Goyal and his strategy,” said a person close to the development.

He requested anonymity.

However, he said Jet Airways is going to lose out in this frequent management changes.

“Etihad Airways had virtually stalled Jet Airways international expansion and Jet Airways is losing its focus on domestic strategy as well. A case in point here is when Jet Airways could not place 75 narrow body Boeing planes while smaller rival SpiceJet Ltd is mulling placing order of 150 planes, reflecting its confidence on domestic market,” he added.

In an interview, Goyal, a former travel agent who built Jet Airways from scratch before selling a 24% stake in it to Etihad Airways in November 2013, had said he’s still the captain of the ship.

“I am in complete control of Jet Airways. I am not playing second fiddle to anyone,” Goyal had said.

In a Thursday statement, Goyal said Ball has, during his tenure, made a significant contribution in the journey to turnaround Jet Airways and the company recorded two consecutive profitable quarters after a gap of eight years.

Ball said he is honoured to have been able to play a part in the turnaround of Jet Airways, as it moves towards long-term sustainable profitability. “The people at Jet Airways have worked as a team to get this business into shape and I am pleased with the progress that has been made,” he said.

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