Bellew quashes speculations surrounding his departure

It is very simple, I just want to balik kampung, the Irishman says


Outgoing Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) CEO Peter Bellew has denied all the speculations that his departure was due to interference by the government and sole owner Khazanah Nasional Bhd in the running of the airline.

Bellew, who called a press conference to clear the air yesterday, described all the allegations made by certain quarters as “100% incorrect”.

“It is very simple, I just want to balik kampung. There is no mystery, no intrigue, no controversy around that as far as I’m concerned,” Bellew told a media gathering in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya, yesterday.

Bellew was all by himself, without any publicist or VIPs. The Irishman appeared in his usual business suit with the MAB pin notably missing from his blazer.

He also made it clear that this was a personal response.

News of Bellew’s departure on Oct 17 had given rise to various speculations of external interference in the operations of the recovering national carrier.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became the latest critic to add on to the rumours by questioning Bellew’s claim and blaming Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak for meddling in the affairs of MAB with the promised purchase of Boeing jets during his trip to the US in September.

Echoing his earlier statement, Bellew brushed off the assertion and ensured there had been zero interference by any parties during his tenure-ship. He said rumours of him leaving due to aircraft orders were “completely untrue”.

“Not a shred of truth in that statement. There was no political interference in MAB’s decision to buy Boeing’s or Airbus’ aircraft. MAB needs more wide-body planes and less narrow bodies.

“The chairman and I brought the memorandum of understanding to the prime minister in Washington and he witnessed the signing. It all came from MAB,” he said.

Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof.

Bellew submitted his resignation letter to Md Nor on Oct 8 (Pic: TMRpic)a

Bellew went on to clarify that he submitted his letter of resignation to chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Md Yusof two weeks ago on Oct 8.

He said MAB’s reaction to Ryanair Ltd’s announcement on the London Stock Exchange was in line with boardroom efforts to keep him on board.

“MAB did everything in their power to get me to stay within the next 10 days (after the resignation letter was handed in), as simple as that,” Bellew said. However, he did not disclose the exact details of when he was offered to return to Ryanair.

Ryanair’s statement on Oct 17 took MAB by surprise, with the latter calling the announcement “unexpected” in a media statement issued later in the evening.

Bellew’s premature exit from MAB closely follows that of his predecessor, Christoph Muller, who also left after a year into the job. Muller quit two years ahead of his contract, citing personal problems for his departure. The German was later appointed as chief digital and innovation officer at Gulf carrier Emirates Airline.

“I apologise for not being able to fulfil my contract. For education and family reasons, my wife and kids went back to Ireland in July. I thought I could manage it for a year or two, but I need to be with my family. I am sorry,” Bellew said.

With the latest withdrawal, Khazanah announced last Friday the appointment of Captain Izham Ismail as the ED and group CEO-designate of MAB.

Izham’s appointment makes him the fourth CEO of MAB in three years, and the first inhouse talent in over a decade.

The last homegrown talent who helmed the position was Datuk Ahmad Fuad Dahlan from April 2004 to August 2005.

Prior to the appointment, Izham was the COO with 38 years of experience in the aviation industry.

He started with MAB as a pilot and climbed the ranks to be director of operations, and later CEO of MASwing. In November 2016, he was made COO of the airline.

Khazanah said Izham’s nomination was in line with the 12-point MAS Recovery Plan to have local talent taking the leadership of MAB.