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Malaysia Airlines new CEO Mueller an aviation veteran

Dec. 5, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Christoph R. Mueller, who will be appointed as chief executive officer-designate of Malaysian Airlines Bhd, has a strong record of transformation and turnarounds in the aviation industry.


December 5, 2014
By The Toronto Star

Khazanah Nasional Bhd announced on Friday the line-up for the new company which will takeover from Malaysian Airlines System Bhd (MAS), adding that Mueller more than 25 years of relevant experience.

He is currently CEO of Aer Lingus Plc (Aer Lingus), the national airline of Ireland.

He will be nominated to the board of MAS as non-executive director, and appointed as CEO-designate of MAS NewCo, effective Jan 1, 2015.

Khazanah, which is taking the ailing MAS private to restructure it under the MAS NewCo, said he has been CEO of Aer Lingus since 2009.

Khazanah managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar said: “The Khazanah Board in its deliberations took into consideration the critical nature of the MAS restructuring, which requires absolutely the best aviation management expertise, and in particular, those with a strong track record of turning around national flag carriers. An extensive global search was undertaken that covered both international and local Malaysian talent.

“Christoph is the best candidate, and he has two equally important tasks: to lead the turnaround of our national carrier and to build local succession.”

Mueller, who is a German citizen, brings more than 25 years of relevant experience in the aviation, logistics and tourism sectors to MAS.

“Overall, he has approximately ten years as a chief executive in divisional and group roles in the airlines sector, as well as extensive board room experience, including in the travel sector.

“Mueller has a strong record of transformation and turnarounds in the aviation industry,” it said.

Among his key accomplishments, Mueller has demonstrated particular strength in strategic and financial planning, as well as structural repositioning of companies in difficulties.

This includes implementing change programmes and adopting new technology, distribution and retail solutions decisively.

At Aer Lingus, in the last four-and-half years, Mr. Mueller turned around the loss-making airline within a year, in a declining Irish market and tepid European market conditions.

Aer Lingus’ sustainable profitability and cash generation are built on a new strategy and business model that has enabled the 78-year-old carrier to compete in a difficult market environment with both traditional legacy airlines and low-cost carriers. It has also developed Dublin to become one of the leading hubs for North Atlantic long-haul traffic.

Under his watch, Aer Lingus has overall, ventured into new markets and business models, and successfully repositioned itself from primarily a business-to-business model to a business-to-consumer model with a 90% online distribution.

His track record of corporate turnarounds began from his time at Lufthansa, where he was Senior Vice President for network management and corporate planning, during the airline’s major turnaround between 1994 and 1999.

In 1999, he moved on to Sabena S.A., which was part of the Swissair Group, where he was the Chief Operating Officer before becoming CEO of the Sabena Group.

Mueller developed a series of plans to fit in with the Belgium Government’s shareholding including a major cost-cutting programme.

He then moved on to become Chairman of Delta Air Transport (DAT). He then orchestrated the sale of DAT to private investors who renamed it as Brussels Airlines, which today operates as Belgium’s national flag carrier.

He joined DHL Express in 2002 and was appointed Chief Financial Officer soon after it was acquired by Deutsche Post, heading a global finance organisation across 200 countries.

As of 2006, Mueller spent two years at global travel leisure group TUI AG, a DAX 30 company, as a member of the Executive Board responsible for financial controlling, aviation business, central purchasing and new market development.

After the merger of the tourism activities of TUI AG with First Choice Holidays Plc into TUI Travel Plc, a FTSE 100 company, he took the role of Executive Director, Aviation, responsible for a fleet of 160 aircraft operated by seven independent airlines in Europe and Morocco.