Virgin CEO Paul Scurrah to resign once Bain takes control, Hrdlicka to step in

Virgin CEO Paul Scurrah to resign once Bain takes control, Hrdlicka to step in

Virgin Australia (ASX: VAH) CEO Paul Scurrah (pictured) will soon step away from the restructured airline after just over 18 months in the role, six of which have undoubtedly been the most turbulent in the company's history.

Scurrah will step down from his roles as CEO and managing director following the handover to US investment company Bain Capital due at the end of this month, with his departure expected in early November.

He is expected to be replaced by Jayne Hrdlicka, who previously headed up A2M (ASX: A2M) as well as CEO stints at Jetstar and Qantas' loyalty and digital ventures division.

Scurrah says Hrdlicka - who is also currently president and chair of Tennis Australia - is very focused on seeing the business succeed, and he wishes the company well under her leadership.

The Brisbane-based airline has undergone drastic changes due to the pandemic, including around 3,000 job cuts and a withdrawal from its budget brand Tigerair.

Vaughan Strawbridge from Deloitte Restructuring Services says Scurrah has done an "outstanding job" in supporting the team through the process of administration and entering Deeds of Company Arrangements (DOCAs) with Bain.

"His exceptional leadership enabled us to stabilise the business and achieve a sale in a timely and orderly manner," says Strawbridge.

"It is a testament to his leadership that we have been able to complete this sale and the business is well positioned to play its vital role in the rebuilding of the Australian aviation industry and economy more broadly.

"I know there has been speculation about the shape of the airline into the future, and I have reaffirmed with Bain Capital that Virgin Australia will not be repositioned as a low-cost carrier."

Strawbridge says Virgin Australia will be a 'hybrid' airline, offering great value to customers by delivering a distinctive Virgin experience at competitive prices.

"This will appeal to the full spectrum of travellers, from premium corporate through to more budget-focused customers," he says.

"Paul has provided the leadership to enable Virgin Australia to emerge from voluntary administration as a well-capitalised, best in class carrier. His personal commitment and determination to lead Virgin Australia through such a turbulent period is a credit to him," adds Bain Capital managing director Mike Murphy.

Photo: Jayne Hrdlicka in 2012 when she was CEO of Jetstar Group, announcing the the operational launch of Jetstar Japan at Narita Airport.

Scurrah says he is proud of the work done to transition the business and remove complexity.

"Whilst it has been the most challenging time in aviation history, I have continued to be so proud of the way my team and our entire organisation has fought to save this airline and to keep competition alive and well in Australia," he says.

"We have succeeded in not just ensuring the future of the company, but also reset the business to ensure it is well placed to deliver for Bain Capital for many years to come.

"Having seen the company through COVID-19, voluntary administration, the sale to Bain Capital and the redesign of the business, I will be stepping down as CEO and Managing Director at financial close of the DOCAs. I have made this decision after some long discussions with my family. The time feels right, and I know the business will be in good hands."

The outgoing executive also describes his time at the airline as being a privilege, and thanks all team members who have continued to support and work tirelessly to get the company through to this stage.

"It is the people that make this airline the great place it is and I wish them all the best. I was extremely humbled by the warmth with which I was embraced on day one and for the unwavering support afforded to me throughout this ongoing major industry crisis," he says.

"I also want to thank Vaughan Strawbridge and his team at Deloitte as well as our legal and financial advisers for the major achievement and tireless efforts to ensure that Virgin Australia has a future. I won't forget the support they provided me and the team.

"I have also appreciated working with Bain Capital in recent months and recognise the significant contribution they have made to Virgin Australia's long-term future. They have demonstrated a deep understanding of aviation and our culture."

Updated at 12:57pm AEDT on 15 October 2020.

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