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Air Mauritus CEO Out: 10-Month Gig Ends Abruptly



Air Mauritus CEO Out: 10-Month Gig Ends Abruptly
Image source: Defi Media

Some will call it a “golden handshake”, others a forced but amicable departure. Either way, Kresimir Kucko is no longer the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Air Mauritius. In an internal note addressed to staff on Friday, obtained by Le Defi Plus, the national aviation company’s board of directors announced that following a compromise agreement under the Workers Rights Act, the CEO’s service contract has been terminated.

And that, “according to the terms agreed upon by the parties, with effect from the end of February 2024.” The announcement is summed up in this single sentence. He had been appointed in December 2022 and therefore only served as CEO for barely 10 months before being suspended.

The Croation, Kresimir Kucko, had been suspended since September 15th following information received by the board that he, along with Chief Finance Officer Jean Laval Ah Chip, who was also suspended, had enjoyed a stay in Bordeaux, France, funded by a company that Air Mauritius does business with.

In addition to the suspension of the two senior executives, the board of directors had decided to entrust the firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) with the responsibility of an internal investigation. The firm presented the board with the findings of its investigation a few days ago. From there, the two parties began negotiations.

It is reported that as part of the agreement, Kresimir Kucko, former CEO of Gulf Air, Air Montenegro, and Croatian Airlines, would have received several months’ salary in addition to what he had already received during his nearly seven-month suspension.

Some within Air Mauritius consider this agreement to be contrary to good governance principles. “It is unacceptable for a person that the company has sanctioned for a lack of ethics to receive several months’ salary for their departure. We have flouted the rules of good governance,” said a source close to the matter.

For now, Laurent Recoura, a French national who joined Air Mauritius on August 19th, 2022 as Chief Commercial Officer, remains Officer-in-charge of the company. He began his career at Continental Airlines, then held high-ranking positions in the commercial and sales departments at United Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Wataniya Airways, Jet Airways and Iman Air. Three people are in a good position to become the CEO.

Who will replace Kresimir Kucko is the question on the agenda of Air Mauritius’ board of directors and Airport Holdings Ltd (ADH), the owner of Air Mauritius since 2022? This company has the Mauritian government (51%) and the Mauritius Investment Corporation (MIC), a subsidiary of the Bank of Mauritius, as shareholders.

Three names are circulating, namely Donald Payen, Anoop Nilamber, and a member of the Air Mauritius board. Donald Payen has been a Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Tourism since August 2020 and has been President of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) since April 3rd.

Since 1989, Donald Payen has held several senior positions within the national airline. Until his retirement in July 2020, he was Executive Vice President Customer, Product and Digitalisation.

Anoop Nilamber has been the Group Chief Investment Officer of SBM Holdings Ltd since February 7th, 2023, the entity that owns the State Bank of Mauritius (SBM). Before this appointment, he was the CEO of this state financial institution, a position he held since July 2021.

In 2018, Anoop Nilamber was appointed CEO of Mauritius Duty Free Paradise (MDFP) and then CEO of its parent company, Airports of Mauritius Ltd (AML), owner of Plaisance Airport, a year later.

Some board members want to see Laurent Recoura confirmed as CEO. However, some higher-ups criticize him for his handling of the crisis involving multiple flight delays and cancellations since mid-December 2023.

Source: Defi Media

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