Home / Companies / Acting CEO latest to exit Jet Airways

Mumbai: Jet Airways (India) Ltd’s acting chief executive officer (CEO) Ravishankar Gopalakrishnan has resigned, according to two people close to the development, becoming the fifth senior executive at the airline to quit since it sold a 24% stake to Etihad Airways PJSC last year.

Gopalakrishnan joined Jet Airways in October 2012 as chief financial officer and became the acting CEO of the airline on 16 January after Gary Kenneth Toomey quit, barely seven months after he took charge. Toomey had replaced Nikos Kardassis, who left the airline after serving his second term as CEO, from October 2009 to May 2013.

Jet Airways had said Gopalakrishnan would be acting CEO until the board finds a replacement for Toomey in the top job.

Gopalakrishnan did not respond to text messages and phone calls. Jet has no comment on the matter, a spokeswoman said.

One of the two persons cited above said it wasn’t immediately clear if his resignation had been accepted by the airline’s management. Both persons didn’t want to be named.

In April last year, Jet Airways sold a 24% stake in itself to Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. The transaction, valued at around 2,058 crore, has faced close scrutiny from various regulatory agencies since it was signed in April 2013, making it the first such deal since the government in September 2012 allowed foreign airlines to invest in their Indian counterparts.

If his resignation is accepted, Gopalakrishnan would be the fifth senior executive to leave Jet Airways since the stake sale deal was signed. K.G.Vishwanath, vice-president (commercial strategy and investor relations), and Sudheer Raghavan, chief commercial officer, resigned last year.

The person quoted above linked Gopalakrishnan’s departure to differences between the operating philosophy of the two airlines.

“There was lot of disconnect in the strategies of Etihad Airways and Jet Airways in terms of adding more flights via Abu Dhabi, planning route networks, etc," he said.

Despite differences of opinion, Gopalakrishnan waited until Jet Airways integrated its network with that of Etihad Airways before resigning, the second person said. “Gopalakrishnan must have felt there is no more challenge left in Jet Airways," he added.

Etihad Airways hadn’t responded to an emailed query from Mint as of press time.

Gopalakrishnan is a qualified chartered accountant and a cost accountant with more than 23 years of experience in strategic planning, finance, risk management, investor relationships and corporate governance.

At Jet Airways, Gopalakrishnan was responsible for all fiscal management aspects of the company’s businesses and its wide-ranging global operations.

He worked with General Electric Co.’s (GE) India unit between 1994 and 2007, both in its financial services and healthcare businesses. When he left GE India, he was the chief financial officer of GE Healthcare (South Asia business) based out of Bangalore.

Prior to joining Jet Airways, he was the chief executive officer of Geometric Ltd, a company he turned around in two years.

“The exit of the acting chief executive officer is not going to affect the day-to-day operations of the airline as (founder) Naresh Goyal has created a strong back-up team over the years," said K. Sudarshan, country head of London-based EMA Partners International Ltd, a global placement firm.

Sudarshan said these exits would have little impact on Jet Airways, since as a market leader the airline would not find difficult to find replacements.

“Ravi (Gopalakrishnan) is a formidable chief financial officer. He joined Jet Airways without any grounding in the airline business during a very difficult period in Jet Airways’ history," said Raghavan, who quit Jet Airways in November.

“He persevered during the rough and tumble of the Jet-Etihad deal, which is unprecedented in the Indian aviation landscape. It is also during this period that Jet Airways saw significant churn in its senior ranks and Ravi stayed the course to see it through. He has my respect," Raghavan added.

On 16 January, Mint reported that Jet Airways was likely to name former Air Seychelles chief executive Cramer Ball as its next chief executive officer, citing two persons who didn’t want to be named, after Toomey quit.

Shares of Jet Airways on Tuesday rose 0.42% to 225.65 on BSE, while the benchmark Sensex ended little changed at 22,055.21 points.

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