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Tata Sons Pvt. is considering hiring several key executives for Air India Ltd., according to people familiar with the matter, as the nation’s biggest conglomerate works to finalize a turnaround plan for the indebted carrier it’s in the process of taking over from the state.

The group, which in October won a bid to regain control of the airline it originally launched in 1932, is considering both internal and external candidates for roles including the CEO of Air India and a chief financial officer, the people said, asking not to be identified because the negotiations are private. 

Among the potential hires is Fred Reid, a former executive with Virgin America Inc. and AirBnb Inc., as well as Nipun Aggarwal, an ex U.S.-based banker-turned Tata executive, they said. 

Deliberations are still ongoing and no decision has been reached, the people added. Reid could be CEO and Aggarwal CFO, according to the Businessline and Economic Times newspapers, which published the news earlier.

Tata is working with the Indian government to complete the takeover and “will refrain from commenting on any speculation till such time the deal is concluded," a Tata Sons spokesperson said in an email. Reid declined to comment and Aggarwal didn’t reply to a message on LinkedIn.

Tata Sons -- which got the go-ahead to buy Air India after offering $2.4 billion -- faces an uphill task to revive a carrier that hasn’t made money since its 2007 merger with domestic operator Indian Airlines. The group already runs two unprofitable joint ventures with Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Group Bhd. in the country, and has faced criticism for not running those business efficiently, even though they contribute a tiny portion to the group’s overall revenue. 

While Tata Sons eventually plans to merge all its aviation businesses together into one brand, it first plans to sort out the issues with Air India’s employees union and let go of excess staff after a mandatory waiting period, one of the people said. A meeting scheduled for later this month will help shape the business’s overall strategic direction, another said. 

Tata, the holding company for a salt-to-software empire and owner of British luxury carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, made Air India popular in its heyday with advertisements featuring Bollywood actresses and by treating passengers to champagne and porcelain ashtrays designed by surrealist painter Salvador Dali.

Established by legendary industrialist and philanthropist J.R.D. Tata, who was India’s first licensed pilot, the airline originally flew mail in the 1930s between Karachi in then-undivided, British-ruled India and Bombay, now known as Mumbai.


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