Yesterday it was announced that Malaysia Airlines’ CEO would be stepping down from his position at the company, and moving back to Ireland to become the COO of Ryanair. His decision seemed to come as a surprise to Malaysia Airlines, as the announcement was actually made by Ryanair on Twitter, welcoming Bellew back to the company.
— Ryanair (@Ryanair) October 17, 2017
That’s quite a downgrade in terms of job title, and beyond that it’s interesting that he’d quit only a bit over a year after taking the job as CEO of the airline. The previous CEO also quit within about a year, which sure makes it seem like it might have more to do with the company as such than the people they hire.
Well, The Star has a personal statement from Bellew explaining why he quit, which I figured was worth sharing:
“This is a personal response and not on behalf of Malaysia Airlines corporately. I hope to answer some questions I was asked overnight.
Malaysia Airlines is special. Not just an airline but one of the earliest symbols of the vibrancy of this amazing country. People who have never flown in their life love it.
Most of the country hopes it will thrive and be the Pride of the Nation again. It is a tough job to fix it.
Success is just within our grasp. Just another 4%-5% in revenue monthly and it should move to profits.
Not always easy to gain but in the second quarter revenue increased 7%.
The product is improving visibly: new wide-body planes, new lounges, new loyalty program, new website and better operations in Kuala Lumpur.
Still some work needed on the food! Lots done – lots more to do.
Please don’t change the brand! Much work has been done globally through the media and travel agents to rebuild our heritage.
People love what Malaysia Airlines stands for. The brand is now revived from China to the UK and down to Australia. That work must continue and will yield the 5%+ revenue growth.
There have been news reports about Khazanah. Let me be clear. Khazanah is a Malaysian investment company linked to the Government. They have been incredibly supportive to me personally and corporately.
I tried to be transparent on a daily basis, included them in most significant meetings and dragged their staff to work for us! It has worked well. There has been no interference.
Although possibly I drove Khazanah mad with my constant questions and wish for consensus. I cannot thank them enough for accelerating our transformation. Tan Sri Azman could not have been more supportive. Terima kasih Khazanah.
People always ask me how do I cope with Government interference. There has been none for me. Zero interference.
So why am I leaving. Negaraku. Love for country is pulling me back to Ireland.
I got a call from Ryanair late evening two weeks ago to be COO. It is Ireland’s greatest company.
They need my help and there is a big challenge. It is a form of national service.
When I was asked on 27th Sept would I go to Ryanair I said “No”.
But a week later the call came and in life we can really never say never. I am looking forward to being close again to my family and friends 14 hours away in Ireland.”
Interesting, and I’m a bit conflicted here.
Bellew claims there was “no interference,” that the company has been “supportive” of him personally and corporately. His decision just came down to him getting a call from Ryanair two weeks ago asking him to come back to Ireland, and he views that as a form of “national service.” He said no, but then a week later agreed to it.
Is this really the whole story? We don’t know. On one hand I get that he might have been homesick, and this was a good opportunity for him to return home. He may not have been thinking about returning home in the near future until this opportunity presented itself.
At the same time, while it might not come in the form of “national service,” Malaysia Airlines really needs help given what they’ve been through in the past few years. Taking a huge downgrade in terms of a job title and potentially allowing Malaysia Airlines to lose focus on their recovery plan isn’t an easy move to make either. So I have to wonder.
What do you make of Bellew’s explanation?
(Tip of the hat to May Lim)