Friday, December 03, 2021

Tata Sons selects expat CEO to lead Air India; may leave it to new boss to finalise airline’s management team

New Delhi: Tata Sons—the holding company for India’s largest conglomerate—is said to have shortlisted an expat chief executive officer (CEO) to head Air India. More importantly, the new Air India boss will reportedly finalise the management team for the airline. Currently, Air India has no CEO and Rajiv Bansal, its chairman and managing director, is an Indian Administrative Officer, who is also the Civil Aviation Secretary.

Also, the holding company of the coffee-to-cars conglomerate has selected members for reconstituting the board of the acquired national airline before its official takeover in January 2022, ET reported citing people with direct knowledge of the matter. Officials, however, mentioned that formal declarations are likely to be made in January 2022.

In October, the Centre had signed the share purchase agreement with Tata Sons for the sale of Air India for Rs 18,000 crore. Earlier, the government had accepted an offer by Talace Pvt Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons, to pay Rs 2,700 crore cash and take over Rs 15,300 crore of the carrier's debt.

The new board will comprise executives from Tata Sons' merger and acquisition (M&A) team, group aviation specialists and a retired government official as an independent director. As per the general convention, the chairman of Tata Sons is the chairman of all major operating entities in the group and it is expected to be so for Talace as well, which houses Air India.

Talace Ltd, which holds Air India and Air Asia, is coming up with a financial proposal for working capital needs, the daily mentioned citing people familiar with the development. “Costs will start ticking on the books of Tatas from January next year such as salaries to be paid to employees, refurbishing aircraft and quality control expenses,” the publication quoted an official in the team as saying.

Further, the group’s amalgamation team, including senior officials from Tata companies such as Air Asia India, TCS and Tata Steel, are giving shape to a marketing and branding plan for Air India and will show it to the Tata Sons board officials. Plus, Tata Steel officials are being roped in for their understanding in handling staff unions.

Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran will likely be the new chairman with rest of the board including group veterans such as Bhaskar Bhat, Air Asia CEO including officials close to the government. Also, the Tatas will rename Talace Ltd, the company set up by the Tatas to acquire Air India. Earlier, news reports mentioned that Tata Sons was work on merging budget carrier AirAsia India with Air India Express, the low-cost unit of Air India.  


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