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Malaysia Airlines stunned by CEO exit, Khazanah blamed




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The national airliner Malaysian Airlines Bhd (MAB) is stunned by the sudden resignation of its CEO Peter Bellew barely after one year at the helm of the ailing company.

A local daily New Straits Times (NST), close to the ruling Umno party, said yesterday night Bellew resignation should be blamed on Khazanah Nasional, in a rare attack on the otherwise highly respected sovereign fund.

But it is the way Malaysia Airlines reacted to the news of the sudden exit of its second foreign CEO that grabs the attention.

MAB issued a statement late last night denying Bellew’s sudden exit, reminding the latter that he had expressed his commitment to Malaysia Airlines when asked to comment on speculation that he would re-join RyanAir.

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“He said that he was happy to be in Malaysia and that the turnaround of Malaysia Airlines would be “the greatest achievement of my life”,” said MAB.

But local newspapers and regional as well as Irish media are certain Bellew has left Malaysia Airlines to join Ryanair.

Yesterday, Ryanair announced that Bellew will re-join the airline as chief operations officer beginning December 1. The announcement was made on the London Stock Exchange.

Ryanair said Bellew will take over responsibility for its flight operations, ground operations, and engineering, Ryanair said in the statement to the LSE.

Bellew previously worked in Ryanair until 2014, where his last post was Director of Flight Operations.

NST accused Khazanah of meddling and micromanaging in the running of the national carrier.

“Khazanah, in actual fact, was micro-managing Malaysia Airlines. There were cases where Khazanah bypassed the MAB board,” the source said to NST.

The newspaper said Khazanah Nasional Bhd, as the sole shareholder of Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB), should take the blame for the sudden exit of its chief executive officer Peter Bellew.

Bellew is the second MAB CEO to prematurely quit after running the airline for a short time. His predecessor, Christoph Mueller, resigned less than a year into his three-year contract.

Mueller’s sudden exit in April last year, which shocked the aviation industry, was apparently due to irreconcilable differences between Khazanah and the German aviation turnaround expert, the source added.

At the time, Khazanah tried to play down Mueller’s resignation, saying the 55-year-old German’s decision was due to a change in his personal circumstances.

It is believed that Bellew, like Mueller before him, could not agree on some of the decisions by Khazanah over the overall running of the national carrier.

Bellew’s exit could also be due to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s sudden commitment to Boeing and US President Trump that the airline would order long-range aircraft after the CEO insisted during his one year tenure that Malaysian Airlines would now focus on short-range flights.

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