MAS chief quitting out of 'love for Ireland'

Mr Peter Bellew, who has been the third chief executive of MAS since 2014, will rejoin Irish carrier Ryanair as its chief operations officer.
Mr Peter Bellew, who has been the third chief executive of MAS since 2014, will rejoin Irish carrier Ryanair as its chief operations officer.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • The outgoing chief executive officer of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Mr Peter Bellew, said he is leaving the carrier and returning to Ryanair out of love for his country Ireland and its "greatest company".

"They need my help and there is a big challenge. It is a form of national service," he wrote in a long response posted on The Star newspaper's website yesterday.

"So why am I leaving? 'Negaraku' (my country). Love for country is pulling me back to Ireland."

His response came amid speculation of a rift with sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional, the sole shareholder of MAS. Mr Bellew has been the third CEO of MAS since 2014, when the company was hit by the disappearance of flight MH370 and the downing of MH17 over Ukraine.

MAS indicated on Tuesday that it was blindsided by his resignation as he told the media just three weeks ago that he would be staying with the Malaysian national carrier despite rumours that he would rejoin Ryanair. He will rejoin the Irish airline as its chief operations officer.

Mr Bellew responded to reports about the so-called meddling by Khazanah. "There have been news reports about Khazanah. Let me be clear. Khazanah is a Malaysian investment company linked to the government. They have been incredibly supportive to me personally and corporately.

"I tried to be transparent on a daily basis, included them in most significant meetings and dragged their staff to work for us! It has worked well. There has been no interference," he wrote, as posted on The Star. "People always ask me how do I cope with government interference. There has been none for me. Zero interference."

SERVING THE NATION

They need my help and there is a big challenge. It is a form of national service... So why am I leaving? 'Negaraku' (my country). Love for country is pulling me back to Ireland.

MR PETER BELLEW, outgoing Malaysia Airlines chief executive, in a response posted on The Star about why he is leaving the carrier.

The New Straits Times (NST) said it believed Mr Bellew, like former MAS CEO Christoph Mueller before him, "could not agree on some of the decisions by Khazanah over the overall running of the national carrier".

As for his recent comments that he would stay on at MAS, Mr Bellew wrote: "When I was asked on Sept 27, would I go to Ryanair, I said 'no'. But a week later, the call came and in life we can really never say never. I am looking forward to being close again to my family and friends 14 hours away in Ireland."

Mr Bellew, who joined MAS in July last year, said the carrier is close to returning to the black. "It is a tough job to fix it. Success is just within our grasp. Just another 4 per cent to 5 per cent in revenue monthly and it should move to profits," he said. "Not always easy to gain but, in the second quarter, revenue increased 7 per cent."

He added: "The product is improving visibly: new wide-body planes, new lounges, new loyalty programme, new website and better operations in Kuala Lumpur."

But he had one complaint: "Still some work needed on the food! Lots done - lots more to do."

Meanwhile, NST said yesterday that two candidates could replace Mr Bellew: MRT Corp CEO Shahril Mokhtar and Malaysia Airports' chief financial officer Omar Siddiq Amin Noer Rashid.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'MAS chief quitting out of 'love for Ireland''. Print Edition | Subscribe