Coleman Andrews Completes His Mission, Hands Over CEO Post to Andre Viljoen
Taking steps to prepare for a public listing in 2002, South African Airways today announced the executive team that will lead the company over the next several years.
Don Ncube, Chairman of Real Africa Holdings, will take over as Chairman on 1 March 2001, placing the non-executive chairmanship in the hands of an independent director with extensive business experience. Ncube replaces Bheki Sibiya, who in addition to his role as Chairman of SAA is an Executive Director of Transnet. Sibiya will continue to serve as a member of SAA’s Board of Directors.
Andre Viljoen, currently Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of SAA, will take over as CEO on 1 April 2001. Viljoen succeeds Coleman Andrews, who has guided SAA through its highly regarded turnaround since June 1998.
Commenting on the planned succession in the two key posts, Bheki Sibiya said: “In the run-up to a successful listing, it is important that the market has an opportunity to see the leadership team of the future demonstrate it can continue the very positive results of the past three years. SAA is likely to complete its best year ever at the end of March, so the timing is perfect to make an orderly transition.”
Sibiya and Moritz Suter, SAirGroup’s board representative at SAA, were effusive in their praise of departing CEO Coleman Andrews and his record.
Sibiya said: “We owe a great debt of gratitude to Coleman for a job exceptionally well done. He came into a very tough environment in June 1998 when SAA was in a steep downward spiral. Within months, service improved sharply as SAA became the world leader in on-time performance and there was a new bounce in the step and smile on the faces of our employees. Customers who had been fleeing SAA began flocking back to the airline. Costs were reduced, revenues were boosted using industry-leading management tools. Alliances were formed with top carriers like Lufthansa, Delta, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Swissair-opening up hundreds of new markets to South Africa. A brand new fleet of 21 domestic/regional jets started to come on line, and major improvements were made to the first and business class product offering.”
Sibiya continued: “Along the way, top managerial talent was developed from within SAA or recruited from within South Africa. Major gains were made at the leadership level in transforming the business, and purchases from previously disadvantaged suppliers were boosted sharply. In short, SAA is now a company flying to ever-higher heights, reflecting the new South Africa as it soars. SAA has demonstrated in the past three years that a top South African company can compete with the best in the world.”
Suter added: “The turnaround of SAA ranks as one of the best airline success stories around the world in the past 15 years. SAirGroup became keenly interested in SAA as a result of this fact, and ultimately we were the winning bidder in the privatisation process because we valued the turnaround highly. It has been a very successful investment for SAirGroup. We are grateful for the world-class job done by Coleman in leading this effort.”
Commenting on his successor, Coleman Andrews said: “Andre Viljoen has carried a huge load in the turnaround of SAA ever since we started work together in June 1998. Initially as CFO, Andre turned in one success after another. He took on the additional responsibility of Chief Information Officer-solving difficult Y2K problems and leading SAA’s migration to a much more powerful set of IT solutions. Then, as Executive Vice President, Andre took on the added responsibilities of Commercial Services-overseeing all of SAA’s critical supplier relationships-while simultaneously rebuilding SAA’s Domestic Sales team. Now, he is also focusing on a complete overhaul of SAA’s Voyager operations. In short, he knows SAA from top to bottom, and he has a keen understanding of the airline industry. Andre will power forward the next critical phases of the Strategy for Winning, and we will work hand in glove in the time ahead, just as we have in the past three years.”
Andrews and Viljoen have outlined a detailed transition plan to be executed over the next several weeks. Viljoen will take up the mantle of CEO on April 1, after which time Andrews will provide advisory assistance on matters of strategy, product development, and Leadership Supply-SAA’s proprietary system for training and developing its future leaders.
Andrews and Viljoen are of one mind about the challenges of the next year: “Priority One is the successful roll-out of SAA’s all-new product and service offering, and then ensuring that our best service is delivered every flight, every day. At the same time, we will make major shifts in SAA’s international strategy to improve profit performance in this sector. The foundation of all these changes will be our Leadership Supply initiative, which will give us a major edge in developing top talent and continuing the transformation of SAA.”
Commenting on his future plans, Andrews said: “While I am still evaluating several alternatives, I am likely to accept a position as general partner of a major US venture capital firm. This will allow me to focus in part on bringing foreign direct investment into South Africa. I expect to keep close ties in South Africa, including maintaining a residence. And I’ll be training to try to turn in a 3-hour time in next month’s Cape Argus Cycle Tour.”