Virgin CEO negotiating exit terms: sources

Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah is negotiating the terms of his exit with the airline’s new owner Bain Capital, two people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.

Mr Scurrah had clashed with Bain about the strategy for Australia’s second-biggest airline and wanted to maintain a more premium offering than desired by the US private equity firm, said the people, who were not authorised to speak with media.

They added Mr Scurrah’s exit was expected to be announced within days.

Bain still plans to keep Virgin’s lounges and business-class offering, in contrast to suggestions it would become a budget carrier, but is not likely to keep operations at a level desired by Mr Scurrah, one of the people said.

Virgin and Bain declined to comment and Reuters was not immediately able to reach Mr Scurrah for comment.

Unions representing Virgin employees are concerned about the possibility of Mr Scurrah’s exit and potential plans to move the full-service carrier downmarket.

The airline fell into voluntary administration owing nearly $7 billion in April. 

It was later bought by Bain and staff were told at the time it would remain a full-service competitor to Qantas.

Mr Scurrah, who took over from long-serving boss John Borghetti in March 2019, is highly regarded by staff despite having announced plans to cut one-third of the workforce due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“He delivers good news and bad in clear terms. There is no lip service,” Steve Purvinas, federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers’ Association, said.

“He has the full support of our association.”

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