Only days after reporting heavy financial losses, the CEO of the struggling African budget carrier Fastjet jumped ship, returning to his previous position at a rival low-fare airline. News that Fastjet ended the most recent financial year tens-of-millions-of-dollars in the red had been delayed for months while the company complied with an “on-going audit process.”
The CEO of the money-hemorrhaging African ultra-low-cost-carrier (ULCC) Fastjet decided to return to greener pastures at his former employer after announcing that the carrier ended last year nearly $65 million in the red. Nico Bezuidenhout said this week he would be immediately leaving his position to once again take the helm at rival Mango Airlines. Bezuidenhout previously led the South African Airways subsidiary until taking over as CEO of Fastjet in 2016.
Despite the ignominious circumstances surrounding Bezuidenhout’s departure, company officials credited the departing CEO with helping to right the ship in many ways. Some question remains, however, about whether or not that turnaround came fast enough to save the carrier from insolvency.
“On behalf of the board and myself, I would like to thank Nico for his efforts, dedication, and time invested over the last three years in favor of Fastjet and its shareholders,” Fastjet Chairman Rashid Wally told Skift on Tuesday. “The Fastjet of today is a fundamentally different business compared to three years ago, and we wish Nico well in his future endeavors.”
Fastjet was lauded as a potential market disrupter in the Sub-Saharan Africa aviation industry when it debuted in 2012, but the budget carrier never really lived up to the hype. In 2016, the airline’s co-founder (and EasyJet boss), Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou led a very public investor revolt against the airline’s management. By then, the company had already issued a number of increasingly dire profit warnings earlier in the year, prompting Haji-Ioannou to question the airline’s chances of surviving to the end of the summer.
“The company has a ridiculously high cost base,” Haji-Ioannou wrote in an open letter to fellow investors. “We believe the company will run out of cash sometime in 2016. We now have about six months left to steady this ship. Time is of the essence.”
A few weeks later, Fastjet lured Bezuidenhout away from Mango. During his tenure, he had some notable successes at streamlining operations and reducing costs, but never quite managed to lead the carrier into the black ink.
[Featured Image: Wikimedia]