Jet CEO, CFO step down, rais­ing fresh con­cerns

TOP-LEVEL EX­ITS CEO Dube, CFO Agar­wal among lat­est ex­ec­u­tives to quit Jet

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Business - Rhik Kundu [email protected] n

Jet Air­ways (In­dia) Ltd lost its se­nior-most ex­ec­u­tives on Tues­day, rais­ing fresh un­cer­tainty over whether the air­line, grounded for nearly a month, will ever take to the skies.

Vi­nay Dube, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO), and Amit Agar­wal, deputy CEO and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, put in their pa­pers, adding to the grow­ing list of toplevel ex­its at the Mum­bai-based car­rier.

Later in the day, Kuldeep Sharma, com­pany sec­re­tary and vice-pres­i­dent of global com­pli­ance, joined the list of ex­its, ac­cord­ing to reg­u­la­tory fil­ings by Jet Air­ways.

The cash-strapped air­line was forced to sus­pend op­er­a­tions on April 17 as it amassed more than $1 bil­lion in debt. A con­sor­tium of len­ders, led by the State Bank of In­dia (SBI), that has taken con­trol of the air­line had ini­ti­ated a bid­ding process, but failed to find a suitor will­ing to buy a ma­jor­ity stake. Dube and Agar­wal cited “per­sonal rea­sons” for their res­ig­na­tions. Both ex­ec­u­tives did not re­spond to Mint’s queries seek­ing com­ments. Sharma could not be reached for com­ment. The res­ig­na­tions come at a time when the fi­nance min­istry’s En­force­ment Di­rec­torate has ini­ti­ated a probe into Eti­had Air­ways PJSC’s in­vest­ment in Jet Priv­i­lege Pvt. Ltd (JPPL), the fre­quent-flyer pro­gramme of Jet Air­ways. The coun­try’s top eco­nomic in­tel­li­gence agency is seek­ing to as­cer­tain whether cer­tain foreign di­rect in­vest­ment norms were vi­o­lated when the Abu Dhabi-based car­rier took a stake in JPPL in 2014.

The se­ries of se­nior per­son­nel ex­its in just about a month has co­in­cided with the on­go­ing gen­eral elec­tion that has ef­fec­tively ruled out a gov­ern­ment-backed bailout.

The lat­est ex­its are ex­pected to cause fresh set­backs to Jet’s stake sale plans and make it tougher for a po­ten­tial buyer to take over the reins of the air­line.

The res­ig­na­tions come amid ef­forts by the SBI-led con­sor­tium to scout for po­ten­tial in­vestors to re­vive the air­line. “Ei­ther both these top ex­ec­u­tives saw the writ­ing on the wall and re­al­ized that the air­line is be­yond re­demp­tion, or they were asked by SBI to quit,” said an avi­a­tion in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive, re­quest­ing anonymity. “The tim­ing of the res­ig­na­tions is in­deed odd.”

The res­ig­na­tions come within days of Eti­had mak­ing a non­bind­ing bid for a mi­nor­ity stake in Jet Air­ways, sub­ject to sev­eral con­di­tions.

Mint re­ported on Mon­day that Eti­had had of­fered to in­fuse close to ₹1,400 crore in Jet Air­ways, aimed at keep­ing its stake at the cur­rent level.

This has prompted len­ders to look for new in­vestors will­ing to take a ma­jor­ity stake.

Dube took charge of Jet Air­ways in Au­gust 2017, while Agar­wal had joined in De­cem­ber 2015.

Jet Air­ways has seen a slew of top ex­ec­u­tives and board mem­bers quit in the past few months.

In April, for­mer chief elec­tion com­mis­sioner Nasim Zaidi re­signed as non-ex­ec­u­tive and non-in­de­pen­dent direc­tor on the air­line’s board cit­ing “per­sonal rea­sons” and “time con­straints”. In­de­pen­dent direc­tor Ra­jshree Pathy left in April, weeks af­ter Jet’s founder-pro­moter Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal quit the air­line’s board.

Last week, top ex­ec­u­tive Gau­rang Shetty, con­sid­ered close to Goyal, also re­signed from the board.

KULDEEP SHARMA, COM­PANY SEC­RE­TARY AND VP OF GLOBAL COM­PLI­ANCE, ALSO JOINED THE LIST OF EX­ITS ON TUES­DAY

MINT FILE

Vi­nay Dube.

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