Govt hunts for new SAA boss
THE government has approached a New York-based recruitment firm to headhunt a senior executive for SA Airways, possibly to replace both MD Mike Myburgh and executive director Zukile Nomvete.
Minister Stella Sicgau's Department of Public Enterprises, under whom SAA falls, has apparently accepted a recommendation by Transnet advisers, merchant bankers SBC Warburg, that the two be replaced.
Sources say the New York recruitment agency of Spencer and Stuart has been approached to find the person whom, it is believed, will take the airline to full privatisation.
However, Sigcau's spokesman Wandile Zote denied the move. "This is far from the truth. Neither Myburgh nor Nomvete's jobs are on the line," he said.
Sicgau is considering a master plan for Transnet in terms of which each Transnet division, including SAA, will have its own board chaired by an executive from the private sector. This would be a forerunner to seeking full or partial privatisation.
SBC apparently recommended Spencer and Stuart after it was hired this year by ailing US megacarrier Delta Air Lines to recruit chief executive Leo Mullin to bring a "fresh style" of management to the airline.
When Business Times contacted Spencer and Stuart this week, a secretary in Dennis Lyons's office inquired about the nature of our business. "It has to do with the SAA chief executive job."
"Oh, how did you hear about the search?" asked the secretary. "From government sources," I replied. "Are you applying - well why don't your fax over your resume?" On hearing the call was from the press, BT was referred to the company's office in Johannesburg. The office did not return phone calls.
Myburgh, who holds master's degrees in civil engineering and business leadership, has been chief executive officer of SAA since 1993. He was responsible for Project Success which saw a turnaround in the airline from a R23-million loss in 1994 to a profit of R217-million in 1995 in his second year as chief executive.
He is highly regarded in international aviation circles, not least of which is British Airways, which has stated its interest in buying into SAA.
Zukile Nomvete, a former flight engineer for Ethiopian Airways, was appointed Transnet executive director, responsible for SAA, in April last year.
SAA announced a loss of R323-million for the financial year ending in March, due mainly to rocketing fuel prices, the fall in the value of the rand as well as declining service standards, high operating costs, low productivity and an ageing fleet.
Negotiations to acquire new aircraft from Boeing have been delayed since late 1995, which is affecting SAA overheads and the ability to service new and existing routes.