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IAG's Walsh vows to retire within two years

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh plans to retire within the next two years from his post at the helm of the British Airways and Iberia parent company.

Walsh disclosed his intention to investors during a capital markets briefing on 8 November.

"I foolishly, when I was much younger, said I'd retire when I was 55," he said. "When I got towards 55 I realised that was a silly thing to do."

Walsh, who has just turned 58, says: "I still love what I do."

But he says he will be 60 in October 2021 and plans to step down before then. "My intention is to be retired within the next two years."

IAG has been working for "some time" on succession planning, he adds, not only regarding the chief executive position but other posts within the company.

Walsh has headed IAG since its emergence in 2011 as a holding company overseeing British Airways and Iberia.

He has guided IAG through an expansion which has included the acquisition of BMI, Vueling and Aer Lingus, the creation of budget long-haul operator Level, and the recent agreement to take over Air Europa.

IAG has also established several joint businesses with Oneworld alliance partners.

Walsh had told the investor audience, earlier in the briefing, that IAG's "unique" corporate structure was being viewed as attractive by the likes of Ryanair and Lufthansa.

"We recognise that there are some out there that want to copy us," he says. But he believes the heads of Ryanair and Lufthansa might find stepping away from the day-to-day running of the main airline a tricky task.

"I know how difficult that transition is," says Walsh, pointing out that he underwent a similar change when he took over as the head Aer Lingus and again when he moved up from running British Airways to lead IAG.

"I know how tough it is to let go of the responsibilities you've had and hand them over to somebody else."

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