Vueling shake-up aims to restore shareholder relations

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Struggling Spanish carrier Vueling is aiming to restore peace among its shareholders through its latest organisational overhaul, under which co-founders Carlos Munoz and Lazaro Ros are stepping down from their executive roles.

Barcelona-based Vueling revealed yesterday that chief executive Munoz and chief operating officer Ros are to step down on 25 November. Vueling’s recently appointed chairwoman Barbara Cassini is also leaving her position. All three will continue as board members.

The moves follow a period of unrest between Vueling’s founders and its key shareholder Grupo Planeto’s Inversiones Hemisferios over the airline’s strategy and management.

Although details remain sketchy, a Vueling spokesman says: “The situation now is that the principle shareholder and the company’s founders have a deal which they have signed for peace in the company.”

Under the reshuffle Inversiones Hemisferios has returned to board representation. It says: “We have rejoined the board with the compromise to increase the value of the company and seek, at all times, shareholders’ value.”

Inversiones Hemisferios withdrew its representatives from Vueling’s board on 24 September. The airline’s management then appointed investment bank Rothschild to advise on its future strategy.

The Vueling spokesman says that the organisational revamp will be formalised during an extraordinary general meeting on 26 November. He says a new CEO will probably be named during the session. The airline’s strategic options are also up for discussion.

He says: “The company is now open-minded to a number of possibilities, including a merger or acquisition with another low-cost carrier, but this is only one of the possibilities.”

Munoz and Ros will act as advisors to the carrier, but will not have an active management role, says the spokesman. He adds that their shareholdings remain unchanged. Munoz owns around 5% of the airline, while Ros holds a 2% stake.

In a joint statement Munoz and Ros say: “We will continue to contribute in every way we can to the development of the company from our role as shareholders, founders and board members.”

Josep Pique is due to succeed Barbara Cassini as independent chairman. The spokesman says Cassini was appointed as an emergency chairwoman, adding that the appointment was never meant to be long-term.

Budget carrier Vueling operates intra-European services using a fleet of 24 Airbus A320s.