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Air NZ CFO named acting chief executive

Wednesday 21st August 2019

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Air New Zealand chief financial officer Jeff McDowall will fill in as acting chief executive from late September while the board sifts through a number of candidates to lead the national carrier. 

CEO Chris Luxon will leave the airline on Sept. 25, and is widely expected to pursue a political career ahead of next year's general election. His unexpected exit was announced in June and triggered an international search for a replacement.

It will be a clean sweep for the government-controlled company with chair Tony Carter due to step down after the annual meeting - the same day Luxon leaves. 

McDowall, who's been with the airline since 2000, will hold the fort until a new permanent CEO starts. He hasn't put his hand up for the role. 

Chair-elect Therese Walsh said the new chief executive might not start until the first quarter of 2020. 

"We are fortunate to have a talented executive team who are united in their support of Jeff to lead them and the business as acting chief executive officer during this interim period," she said. 

"Jeff has held senior management roles across the airline for more than a decade and is well known to investors, stakeholders and key partners, such as the travel trade and unions." 

General manager of corporate finance Stephen Deschamps will act as CFO through the interim period. He joined Air New Zealand early last year, having held senior finance roles at Fonterra Cooperative Group in Brazil and China. 

Air New Zealand last operated with an acting CEO in 2005, calling on former CFO Rob McDonald to bridge what was a six-week gap between Rob Fyfe's appointment and Ralph Norris's departure. 

The airline will report its annual result tomorrow. It has targeted pre-tax earnings to exceed $340 million after downgrading guidance due to rising fuel prices, disruptions to airline schedules over global engine issues, and slowing domestic travel. 

The shares increased 0.2 percent to $2.735.


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