After steering Sydney Airport through international border closures, the disruptions of COVID lockdowns and Australia’s largest private equity takeover, Geoff Culbert plans to step down as CEO of the country’s busiest airport at the end of the year.
Culbert, who will clock up nearly six years as CEO by then since joining the company in January 2018, has not publicly flagged his future career plans following his departure from the company. However, the seasoned corporate executive is targeting a return to near normalised conditions for the airport by the time he hands over the reins.
“It’s been a privilege to have led Australia’s premier domestic and international airport since 2018, and to work with such a wonderful team through a unique and challenging period in the airport’s history,” Culbert says in a statement.
“By the end of the year the airport will be close to fully recovered, and that will be the right time to hand over to a new CEO who will lead the airport through the next phase.”
In the interim, Sydney Airport plans to conduct an international search for a new CEO while Culbert has agreed to stay in the role to ensure a smooth transition of leadesrhip.
Sydney Airport, which was acquired in a $23.6 billion takeover early last year by a consortium led by Global Infrastructure Partners and IFM Investors, reported a 24.2 per cent increase in passenger numbers in April compared to a year ago.
While the total April figure of 3.09 million passengers is still 17.4 per cent below the corresponding pre-pandemic period in 2019, Sydney Airport notes that visitor numbers from China recovered strongly during the month.
Passenger numbers from China are now at 53.8 per cent of the April 2019 figures, up from the 39.6 per cent recovery in March.
Before COVID, Sydney Airport processed more than 44 million passengers annually. The latest 12-month rolling data to the end of April have revealed total airport passenger numbers of 34.45 million – an increase of 208 per cent on the same time last year.
Sydney Airport chairman David Gonsky has paid tribute to Culbert’s leadership during the challenges of the past three years.
“We are enormously appreciative of Geoff’s skilled leadership during one of the most significant and disruptive periods in aviation history,” Gonsky says.
“This includes managing the airport through the pandemic when traffic was devastated by border closures, the recent rapid recovery, and dealing with the largest take-private transaction in Australian corporate history.
“As a leader, Geoff also built an outstanding team and culture that will endure long after he departs. We are pleased that Geoff will be staying on until the end of the year to give us the opportunity to conduct a global search and facilitate a smooth transition to a new CEO”.
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