Emirates President Tim Clark Is Retiring

Filed Under: Emirates

In a memo to employees, Emirates has just announced that the company’s president, Tim Clark, will be retiring as of June 2020.

Clark is 70 years old so he has certainly earned his retirement, though truth be told I’m surprised to see him retiring, since it seems he has really enjoyed his role, and up until now I haven’t heard many rumors of him planning to retire at his current age.

This is easily one of the most significant airline retirements we’ve seen in a long time.

Clark Has Turned Emirates Into What It Is

While no one person can be given credit for the success of a company, Clark has been at Emirates since the very beginning. He moved to the Middle East in 1975, and was part of the team that started Emirates in 1985.

The man has had an incredible vision for the airline, and I truly believe that both Emirates and Dubai wouldn’t be what they are today without him.

Unlike some other airline executives, Clark has truly had a consistent vision, and has executed on it. He has built an airline based on scale and simplicity in a way we haven’t really seen at any other airlines.

This Has Been A Year Of Change At Emirates

2019 was a huge year for Emirates, and maybe not for the best. Up until now the company has thrived on simplicity, flying just A380s and 777s. But with A380 production ending in 2021, the company has made a lot of decisions in recent months.

Right now Emirates’ fleet consists of just A380s and 777s

We’ve seen Emirates at a minimum sign MoUs for the 787-9, 787-10, A350-900, A330-900neo, and more. In the end it looks like the company has selected the 787-9, A350-900, and 777X for their future.

Emirates has placed orders for the 787-9

Ultimately I guess at this point most of the big aircraft order decisions have been made, but it will be in the next five or so years that Emirates’ management team will have to execute on fleet planning, and I’ll be sad that Clark won’t be at the company for that.

Who Will Emirates Pick As A Replacement?

What’s interesting about all of this is that in the past several years Emirates has hired a few senior executives who seemed like they may have been brought on to eventually replace Clark… though they ended up leaving pretty quickly. For example:

  • We saw Christoph Mueller, the former Malaysia Airlines CEO, join Emirates in 2016, and then he left the company in early 2019
  • Meanwhile Thierry Antinori, Emirates’ Chief Commercial Officer, left Emirates just a few months ago; he has been at the company since 2011, and claims he was offered the role of CEO of Air France-KLM in 2016, but turned it down

So it sure makes you wonder who Emirates will pick as Clark’s replacement.

While Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum is still the Chairman & CEO of Emirates, he’s not much of a day-to-day operations guy, to put it mildly, and has always acted in the background, at least publicly.

What Emirates’ CEO Says

In a letter to employees, Emirates’ CEO highlights Clark’s contributions to the airline, including:

Having worked closely with Tim since the airline’s inception in 1985, I know firsthand of his deep passion for Emirates – the business, the people, the brand. Through wars, economic recessions, disasters natural or man-made, and various industry upheavals, Tim has ably steered and grown Emirates to its standing today as the world’s largest international airline, and an eminent player in the global airline industry. Not many airlines in the world have delivered an unbroken run of profitability for the past 31 years, and can proudly say that it was all achieved without any aeropolitical protection or subsidy.

Bottom Line

I have nothing but respect for Clark — he’s a man who is incredibly passionate about the industry, and has been at Emirates since day one. He has had a vision, and has executed on it in a way that no other airline has.

The company has big shoes to fill with Clark leaving, and the direction they take will be telling.

Based on the letter to employees, it seems to me like this is a “legitimate” retirement, rather than him being forced out, or anything. What I do wonder about is whether Clark is choosing to leave now because he was targeting a retirement by 70 all along, or because it’s just a big time of change at the company, and he has had enough and wants someone else to deal with it.

What do you make of Clark’s retirement at Emirates?

Comments
  1. The rumour has been around all year. Even money favourite to take over is Ghaith Al Ghaith, currently boss at flyDubai.

  2. Isn’t Emirates Chairman the REAL driving force behind Emirates success over the years? I understood that all the chairmen were the real people doing the hard work in the Middle East

  3. Kudos to him! I started flying Emirates since mid-2000s and even back then the flights were pleasant and felt premium even in economy (mainly due to the on-demand IFE which was a luxury back then but was available in economy class.)
    I’ll admit I wasn’t sure whether Emirates would survive the global recession ten years ago but it did. I hope he enjoys his well earned retirement!

  4. Emirates is what it is today because of the great vision and tireless execution of the vision into reality by Sir Tim Clark. No airline executive can be compared to the boundless zeal with which Sir Tim Clark transformed Emirates and the modern Dubai as it is today. Even after retirement, I am sure Sir Tim Clark will be involved in some capacity in guiding Emirates to retain its premier position in the airline world. Happy retirement.

  5. Nothing but respect for a person that came with one vision, and one vision alone: to connect the world in a comfortable way regardless of the class flown.

    Economy of Scope and Economy of Scale without treating passengers as second rate citizens. His vision of comfortable travel and seamless transfer through Dubai and the birth of 747-400 made Emirates into what they are today.

    Hats off.

  6. It will be impossible to fit Sir Clark’s shoes simply because the loyalty between him and the company can’t be matched. Emirates is his baby as it was for another aviation legend, Maurice Flanagan, who passed away shortly agate right his retirement at Emirates. For both of them Emirates was a life mission and not just a job. Tim Clark is retiring over 15 years before Flanagan did and probably is the right thing to do.

  7. @Tango Victor

    While I agree that Tim Clark does deserve a lot of praise for building EK in to a giant, the rest I’m not sure what stuff are you smoking.

    I never remember Emirates ever fly any passenger 747 let alone a 747-400. (Unless your experience of comfortable was in a cargo pallet)

    I also think comfortable way is not part of his vision. EK is among the first who introduced 3-4-3 in economy when most others are still flying 3-3-3 and among the last to still fly 2-3-2 in business. EK got away by distracting passengers with ICE.
    The A380 was the real game changer. People everywhere wanted to try the novelty of the shower. Before that was just cheap attractive fares for a decent experience even in business or first.

  8. He deserves and enormous amount of credit for making EK the default airline for long haul international travel. He used the deep pockets of the UAE as well as a then new DXB to outcompete the EU3 on most long distance city pairs. He leaves EK at the top with a competitive product, an accessible and efficient hub as well as scale that nobody can match for a while. The future looks more murky for them with DXB filling up and the quality of service starting to lag. QR is their biggest threat with a more efficient fleet, a brand new hub at DOH and equally deep pocketed backers. This battle should prove great for long haul premium travelers and I look forward to many more flights on both in the future.

  9. Hmm.. sure he did a good job but he has had it very easy. With investors with unlimited spending power and a cheap labor force on highly restricted contracts, the vision can be very easily achieved. Would he have been able to the same for a western airline like those in the US?

  10. @Rebecca

    Yes you are right. There is a reason you don’t see hundreds of A380s, not even one. He probably can’t replicate EK in the US. He still deserve some credit when it’s due.

    Do you think Doug Parker can replicate this with any ME3?
    Do you think Jeff Smisek can grow an airline even with oil subsidy?
    Do you think Ed Bastian will ever offer premium products yet still undercut competition?

    He played a huge role putting DXB and EK on the map.

  11. I can’t think of any other industry where the customers have such weirdly emotional attachments to CEOs despite not actually knowing much at all about what they do…

  12. @Callum

    You might be right.
    We probably all think that every CEO does nothing but looking at share prices and counting cash. Maybe signing some contracts and pocket some kickback or doing a favor for few board members to always get the vote. Besides that is just flying around the world in the corporate jet, dining at 3 star restaurants and banging interns at 5 star hotel suites. While at home the partner is going on a shopping spree everyday and the kids go to Ivy league schools. When the company collapse, you get a big fat $50 million severance package while thousands of your employees get kicked into the streets. Did I say banging more interns?

    Yes, you might be right. We actually don’t know much at all about what they do…
    So tell us please what do CEOs really do?
    And do people don’t get emotional with other industry CEO such as say the late Steve Jobs? How about Rupert Murdoch? Then there is Doug “lol” Parker.

    It would be nice if @Callum can clarify.

  13. Yes Please Tango Victor , please explain what you mean by the 747-400 importance in DXB: development in general and EK in particular ?

  14. Sir Tim Clark is a remarkable man who helped make Emirates the great airline it is today. Like all great men with great achievements, he deserves to have a chance to retire and enjoy his retirement.

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