Next step will be reconstituting the board; group CEO Tony Fernandes likely to step down
After nearly six months of leadership vacuum, AirAsia India will have a new CEO and managing director in Sunil Bhaskaran, who will take charge from November 15, a company statement said on Wednesday.
Both Tata Sons and AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia hold 49% each in AirAsia India while chairman S Ramadorai and director R Venkataramanan hold 1.5% and 0.5%, respectively. Tata Sons plans to buy the stake of Ramadorai and Venkataramanan and take its stake to 51% in the airline.
Sources told FE that the next step would be to reconstitute the board, which is likely to see Tony Fernandes, group CEO, AirAsia Berhad, and Bo Lingam, deputy group CEO stepping down.
Bhaskaran’s appointment comes at a time when the airline and some of its executives are being investigated for alleged wrongdoing by the CBI. The agency in May filed a case against Fernandes and AirAsia India over allegations of corruption and breaking rules in obtaining a flying licence.
The CBI chargesheet accused the airline, some of its employees and third parties of violating foreign direct investment (FDI) rules for the aviation sector while obtaining the licence, and of allegedly bribing government officials in an attempt to get regulations relaxed to allow AirAsia India to fly international routes.
On its part, AirAsia India has refuted allegations of any wrongdoing.
Bhaskaran is a Tata Group veteran and currently is vice-president of corporate services at Tata Steel. He has over three decades of experience in the fields of manufacturing, export and commercial operations with the group.
Commenting on the new appointment, chairman Ramadorai said, “We are delighted to welcome Bhaskaran as the new CEO & MD of AirAsia India. With India’s aviation sector growing at a rapid pace, we are confident his extensive experience, ability to drive performance and work seamlessly with all stakeholders will be a great asset for AirAsia India. I am thankful to the board and the shareholders (Tata Sons and AirAsia Bhd) for meeting with the shortlisted candidates in arriving at the unanimous selection of Bhaskaran”.
The previous CEO of AirAsia, Amar Abrol, had resigned in April.