Former Qantas executive John Borghetti has been appointed chief executive officer at rival Australian airline Virgin Blue.
The decision ends a seven-month search for a successor to Brett Godfrey, with Mr Borghetti expected to takeover at the Brisbane-based airline on May 8th this year.
Mr Borghetti quit as executive general manager of Sydney-based Qantas last year, following the airline’s decision to promoted Alan Joyce to the CEO position.
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the carrier’s major shareholder, Virgin Group, has indicated Mr Borghetti was always high on the list of candidates.
“I am thrilled today to welcome John Borghetti to the Virgin family,” explained Mr Branson in a statement.
“John has been in the aviation business for even longer than I have, has a deep understanding of the industry, strong sense of brand and many powerful ideas of his own.”
Flight Centre managing director Graham Turner is thought to have recommended Mr Borghetti to Sir Richard in mid-2009. He will be only the second CEO at the airline, following Mr Godfrey’s decision to step down after founding the airline with Virgin Group in 2000.
The appointment follows a return to profitability at Virgin Blue, with the airline reporting a A$62.5 million net profit for the fiscal first half in February.
For the six months ending December 31st the Australian carrier had a net profit of A$62.5 million - which compares with a net loss of A$101.4 million in the corresponding period last year, it confirmed.
Plans to order as many as 50 Boeing Co. 737 planes to underpin an expansion of Australian capacity were also outlined recently.
Virgin Blue rose 1.6 per cent to 64 cents at the close of trading on the Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney. The stock has gained 8.5 per cent this year after more than doubling in 2009.
In an apparently unrelated move, rival Qantas was yesterday reeling from the sudden departure of finance chief Colin Storrie.
Stepping down for health reasons after just 18-months in the role, his departure is all the more pertinent as Mr Storrie was the first appointment made by Alan Joyce in September 2008 after being promoted to chief executive at Qantas.