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QANTAS: Alan Joyce’s replacement – Internal candidates interviewed. Announcement in May?

QANTAS: Alan Joyce’s replacement – Internal candidates interviewed. Announcement in May?

According to the usually reliable Lucus Baird of the Australian Financial Review, Qantas completed interviewing internal candidates to replace Alan Joyce as CEO last week. He speculates that there might be an announcement before the end of April about who will succeed, and when they will take up the position.

Qantas appointed executive recruitment outfit Russell Reynolds earlier this year to draft the selection criteria for Alan Joyce’s successor. Joyce has always favoured an internal candidate and specified that he wants to see a woman head up Qantas next. That fits with speculation that either Vanessa Hudson, currently CFO or Olivia Wirth in charge of Qantas Loyalty are the two leading candidates.

It’s rumoured that Qantas Chairman Richard Goyder and the board will meet soon – as in a week or so to plan the succession. Logically that is the right thing to do prior to a market update timed for mid to late May – which could see the succession announcement. Alternatively, the announcement might wait until August 2023, when Qantas will announce its full-year results.

Olivia Wirth - Qantas Executive and leadership hopeful
Olivia Wirth [Qantas]

2PAXfly Takeout

This is a big decision. I always believed that Alan Joyce, who became CEO in 2008, would remain in his leadership role until the launch of Project Sunrise. In 2021, that was announced as being in 2024, however, in May 2022 the launch was pushed back to late in 2025. Adding another 18 months to his leadership, currently set to conclude later this year, might be a bridge too far.

This appointment could head in two very different directions. If financial concerns are primary, then the appointment of Ms Hudson might be hailed as the right decision. She is a qualified accountant but has also been Executive Manager of Sales and Distribution, Senior Vice President for Qantas across the Americas and New Zealand, Executive Manager of Commercial Planning and Executive Manager for Product and Service. OK, her experience is broader than just financial.

If a passenger’s first view was to be promulgated, and let’s face it, that is what social media and travellers are baying for. With her experience as Chief Customer Officer, Group Executive, Brand, Marketing and Corporate Affairs and Group Executive for Government Relations and Corporate Affairs, Olivia Worth indicates experience in dealing with customers and stakeholders big and small. She might be expected to take a passenger and service first view as her primary aim.

I don’t know either of these candidates. I only know what I read on the Qantas website and their LinkedIn profiles. Having said that, I think my vote if on the Board (heaven help them), would be for Ms Wirth.

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