Virgin Australia has appointed former DP World stevedores and Queensland Rail boss Paul Scurrah to replace John Borghetti as its chief executive.
The logistics veteran will take over the top job at Australia’s second-largest airline on March 25, Virgin said on Wednesday morning. He will be tasked with stabilising the airline’s finances after six unprofitable years.
Mr Scurrah worked at Qantas in the early 1990s, and later at Ansett, where he rose to the position of general manager of sales and marketing during its administration. He later held senior roles at Flight Centre and other travel and tourism operators.
Mr Scurrah – whose position as a leading candidate for the top job was revealed exclusively by The Age and SMH in early January – has spent the last seven years in logistics, first at Aurizon and then as head of stevedores DP World Australia, the nation’s largest port and supply chain operator.
Virgin chairman Elizabeth Bryan said Mr Scurrah was a “highly regarded business leader” with “strong leadership credentials”.
“Paul’s highly relevant transport and logistics expertise and strong commercial background make him the ideal candidate to consolidate the group’s achievements and continue to build momentum into the future,” Ms Bryan said in the statement.
Virgin’s long-standing CEO John Borghetti, who has led the airline since 2010, announced in June last year he would leave by the end of 2019.
Industry watchers have said that Virgin’s new CEO will have a major task ahead in improving its financial performance while balancing the demands of its major airline investors.
Virgin has run at a statutory financial loss every year for the past six years, running up total losses of $1.6 billion over that period, and peaking at last year’s loss of $653 million.
The company’s share registry is dominated by major investors Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Chinese groups HNA and Nanshan, which each own about 20 per cent of its shares. Richard Branson’s Virgin Group owns another 10 per cent.
Other candidates previously floated for the top job included former Hawaiian Airlines boss Mark Dunkerley, who was seen as a front-runner at one point. Former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour and Westpac executive George Frazis were also touted as contenders.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.