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Suggestions swirl as Luxon steps down from Air NZ

June 24, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

While Air New Zealand searches for a new chief executive, following the resignation of high-achieving incumbent Christopher Luxon, media in New Zealand is hinting that Luxon may enter politics in opposition to Jacinda Ardern and is suggesting former Qantas international chief executive Alison Webster as a possible replacement for Luxon at Air New Zealand.

There’s no doubt Luxon has been very good for Air New Zealand and will not be easy to replace. He has given the airline three months’ notice.

The New Zealand Herald said that Luxon, 48, had hinted at a political move, which would be with the National Party, New Zealand’s equivalent of Australia’s Liberals. The Nationals are currently in opposition. Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, heads the Labour Party.

“Politics is something I am interested in,” Luxon told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

Asked by Hosking whether that would be with the National Party, Luxon said: “Yes I think it probably would be.”

Luxon says he will decide on his future while sitting on a beach over summer.

Confirming that he is re-evaluating his professional career, Luxon added he and wife Amanda would soon have more freedom with both children finishing high school shortly. Options included politics or a corporate role outside New Zealand.

Luxon will depart the airline on 25 September 2019, seven years ago to the day since he took on the top role.

Luxon with Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce

Commentary on Radio New Zealand (RNZ) has speculated on who might replace Luxon.

Among those that RNZ’s Midday Report mentioned as qualified (not to suggest they are going for the job) are former Qantas international chief executive Alison Webster, who resigned in April, and Virgin Group chief executive Josh Bayliss.

Others considered suitable contenders included departing managing director of the telco Spark, Simon Moutter; chief revenue officer at Air New Zealand, Cam Wallace; the airline’s chief financial officer, Jeff MacDowell; the airline’s chair, Therese Walsh; its regional airline chief, Carrie Hurihanganui; energy firm Mercury’s chief executive, Fraser Whineray; former ASB bank chief executive, Barbara Chapman; Qantas group executive of people, culture and corporate affairs, Lesley Grant; and Hawaiian Airlines former chief executive, Mark Dunkerley.

Luxon with former Tourism Australia managing director, John O’Sullivan

 Here’s the official statement from Air New Zealand

 Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon has resigned this evening [19 June 2019] and will step down from day to day leadership of the airline on September 25.

Chairman Tony Carter says Mr Luxon has made an outstanding contribution to the airline, which has experienced a period of enhanced profitability, strong dividends to shareholders, record customer satisfaction scores, outstanding brand health and the best corporate reputation in New Zealand and Australia during his seven-year tenure.

 “It was on this day seven years ago that Christopher’s appointment to the role of Chief Executive Officer of Air New Zealand was announced,” Mr Carter says.

Luxon with Aussie actor Bryan Brown

 “The opportunity to lead New Zealand’s most iconic company will attract many great candidates both internationally and within New Zealand. The Board has commenced an international search and expects to be in a position to announce the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer in the near future.

 “Further, Christopher will be in the role until 25 September, and then he will move to advising and supporting the incoming Chairman and new CEO so we have a seamless transition and are set up well for further success.”

 Mr Luxon says he is incredibly proud of what Air New Zealand has achieved under his tenure.

 “Our customer centricity, commercial focus, and highly engaged culture have made Air New Zealand the most revered company in our part of the world as reflected in our corporate reputation rankings on both sides of the Tasman.”

Mr Luxon says he will miss heading to work every day to lead the aviation equivalent of 12,500 All Blacks.

 “It has been an awesome journey and what we have achieved by working together with a common goal of supercharging New Zealand’s success economically, environmentally and socially has been nothing short of remarkable.

 “I have absolutely loved the responsibility and experience of leading this company over the last seven years. It has been intellectually challenging, people centred and an absolute privilege to do this job. However, I do feel it is the right time for a new leader to take over and preserve and enhance the good things from our past, but also to put their own stamp on the organisation bringing their own personality and emphasis to the role as I did.”

 He says the culture at Air New Zealand is unlike any other company and it has only strengthened as the airline introduced performance management and leadership development programmes, pioneered High Performance Engagement (HPE) with its union partners, chose to pay a Company Performance Bonus, improved its safety record and lifted its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

 “All of this has seen Air New Zealand regularly voted as the best place to work in the country. I will miss the friendship and support of all those with whom I have worked with and served.

 “I know I am going to get a lot of questions about where to next for me, so I am keen to be quite upfront about that. Obviously, job number one is to stay focused and finish strongly at Air New Zealand so we are set up for more success going forward. Then I’m going to take the summertime to refresh and recharge, and then reflect on what I will do next.

 “I am now 48 years old and my wife Amanda and I are at an interesting time in life. Our children will both have finished high school and so we will have a new degree of freedom, including career choices. Thus, I would like to think more about how I can best use my skills, abilities and experience to make a further contribution to the success of New Zealand whether that be through corporate life, politics or a not for profit.”

Written by Peter Needham

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