Fastjet CEO Nico Bezuidenhout returns to Mango to lead turnaround

Nico Bezuidenhout
Nico Bezuidenhout

Mango Airlines has rehired Nico Bezuidenhout as chief executive to speed up its recovery plan, turning to an executive who led the business for nearly a decade and recently steered Africa’s Fastjet back from financial crisis.

South African Airways (SAA), the parent of low-cost carrier Mango, has not made a profit since 2011 and said last month it needed 4 billion rand ($282 million) from the government to survive the current financial year.

Bezuidenhout will take up the top job at Mango in October, he told Reuters on Tuesday.

The 42-year-old South African previously held the post for nearly a decade until 2016, when he joined Fastjet following tensions between the then-CEO and No.2 shareholder, easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

At Fastjet, which operates in South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Bezuidenhout worked to revive its fortunes and shore up its dwindling cash pile. The company was saved from going under after striking a deal to raise funds late last year.

“Last year we took a lot of pain. Aviation is a dragon slayer. Many a good company face difficulties,” Bezuidenhout told Reuters last month. He said Fastjet expected to be profitable on an underlying basis in 2019.

Fastjet shares were down 6.4% at 1.4 pence in thin trading at 0950 GMT. The company said deputy group CEO Mark Hurst would lead the airline until a permanent replacement was appointed.

At Mango, Bezuidenhout said, the CEO position was never filled after he left it in 2016, mainly due to ‘political’ issues at SAA.

Last month, SAA appointed Zukisa Ramasia as its interim CEO after Vuyani Jarana unexpectedly resigned, saying his turnaround plan was being undermined by a lack of state funding and too much bureaucracy.

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