Air NZ executives find the exit

MATT O'SULLIVAN
Last updated 11:21 04/10/2012
norm thompson
EXIT ROW: Long-time Air New Zealand deputy chief executive Norm Thompson will leave the national airline in June.

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Air New Zealand is overhauling its senior management team in preparation for its new boss taking the reins, with long-time deputy chief executive Norm Thompson the latest to announce his departure.

Thompson, a 45-year veteran of the airline who is also acting general manager of its international operations, will retire in June - six months after new chief executive Christopher Luxon takes over from Rob Fyfe.

The airline has been well known for a stable and experienced management team, but Luxon's recent appointment has coincided with the impending departures of other senior executives, including Vanessa Stoddart, the boss of human resources and technical operations. She will leave at the end of the year.

Another senior executive, Glen Sowry, is also departing after almost 10 years at the airline to become chief executive at Housing New Zealand. He starts his new job in mid-January.

Replacements for the three executives are not expected to be announced until the new year.

Luxon was named in June as the successor to the highly regarded Rob Fyfe, who is yet to decide what he will do when he leaves the airline.

Executives and other senior managers at Air New Zealand are nervously waiting to see what changes Luxon will make when he takes the reins at the end of December.

He has been making his way around various parts of the airline over the past few months to familiarise himself with their workings.

The former Unilever executive, who joined the NZX and ASX-listed airline in May last year, edged out Bruce Parton, the boss of Air New Zealand's short-haul operations, for the top job.

Air New Zealand has a 20 per cent stake in Virgin Australia, and is expected to seek even closer workings with its alliance partner on a variety of fronts including aircraft procurement.

Last week Air New Zealand announced plans to buy back 3 per cent of its ordinary shares after the board took the view the market was undervaluing the stock. The government, which has a majority shareholding in the airline, will not sell its shares into the buyback, which means its stake will increase from a 73 per cent stake to just over 75 per cent.

Air NZ shares closed at $1.215 on the NZX yesterday, their highest level in over 18 months (March 2011).

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- BusinessDay.com.au

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