Air Canada's Rovi­nescu set to re­tire, CFO named to top job

Calgary Herald - - FP CALGARY - ILYA BANARES

Calin Rovi­nescu will re­tire as Air Canada's top ex­ec­u­tive in Fe­bru­ary and hand the reins to Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Michael Rousseau, who takes over an air­line with a strong bal­ance sheet but a huge re­build­ing task ahead of it.

Rovi­nescu re­joined the Mon­treal-based air­line in 2009 and has been cred­ited with sav­ing it from a sec­ond brush with bank­ruptcy. Its 3,575 per cent gain made it the top-per­form­ing stock in the S&P/TSX Com­pos­ite In­dex for the 10-year pe­riod that ended Dec. 31, 2019. Like other ma­jor air­lines, it lost much of its value since COVID-19 hit, with the stock drop­ping 68 per cent this year amid the crush­ing re­stric­tions on air travel.

“I have en­joyed a unique and very spe­cial re­la­tion­ship with Air Canada and our out­stand­ing peo­ple for over three decades, on the front lines of many of the com­pany's defin­ing mo­ments,” Rovi­nescu said Fri­day in a state­ment. “I am es­pe­cially proud of the com­pany's trans­for­ma­tion over the last dozen years dur­ing which we built Air Canada into one of the world's lead­ing car­ri­ers.”

Rovi­nescu crit­i­cized Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau in the sum­mer for Canada's COVID-19 travel re­stric­tions, which have been stricter than a num­ber of other de­vel­oped coun­tries. A manda­tory 14-day quar­an­tine for all in­com­ing trav­ellers and a lack of air­line-spe­cific gov­ern­ment sup­port have put Cana­dian air­lines at a dis­ad­van­tage com­pared to global com­peti­tors, he said.

Rousseau joined Air Canada in 2007 to head its fi­nances af­ter a stint as pres­i­dent of Hud­son's Bay Co. He added deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive to his list of ti­tles in 2018 in a move that saw him gain sig­nif­i­cant over­sight over fleet plan­ning, pen­sion fund ad­min­is­tra­tion and Air Canada Rouge, the com­pany's bud­get car­rier, among other func­tions.

“We ex­pect a smooth tran­si­tion and busi­ness as usual fol­low­ing the CEO suc­ces­sion in early 2021, par­tic­u­larly given AC'S Covid-19 mit­i­ga­tion plan is al­most com­plete,” Bank of Nova Sco­tia an­a­lyst Konark Gupta said in a note to in­vestors. “We be­lieve a lot of credit goes to Mr. Rousseau for AC'S en­vi­able bal­ance sheet head­ing into the cur­rent down­turn and for strength­en­ing the liq­uid­ity po­si­tion this year.”

An­a­lysts have been an­tic­i­pat­ing a lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion. Na­tional Bank of Canada an­a­lyst Cameron Do­erk­sen said Rousseau was the “ob­vi­ous choice,” and ATB Cap­i­tal Mar­kets an­a­lyst Chris Mur­ray said the plan was “log­i­cal” given the CFO has been in­ti­mately in­volved with many parts of the busi­ness.

Calin Rovi­nescu

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