Hunt on for new Alitalia chief exec after Etihad deal
Alitalia chief executive Gabriele Del Torchio is ready to leave the airline after striking a rescue deal with Etihad Airways, he said in an interview with newspaper 'Corriere della Sera'.
The move will create a vacancy at the top of what is still one of Europe's biggest airlines, just as three of the most senior aviation executives here are coming on to the jobs market.
Etihad, which owns more than 4pc of Aer Lingus, is buying the maximum 49pc stake a non-European Union buyer can aquire in the Italian "flag carrier".
Mr Del Torchio was previously the chief executive of motorcycle maker Ducati, before he was recruited last year to help bring the struggling Italian airline back to profit.
For nearly a year, Mr Del Torchio led talks to secure a deal with Etihad, which was finally signed on Friday and which will see the Abu Dhabi-based carrier buy almost half of Alitalia and invest €560m into the loss-making Italian airline.
"My task was to lead the company towards an alliance," he told the paper.
"I don't know yet what I will do, but I'm not ready to retire yet."
Mr Del Torchio said Alitalia's board would choose his successor, adding that he believed an Italian would lead the group.
In Italy Silvano Cassano, a former chief executive of Italian clothing, manufacturing and retail group Benetton, is tipped as a likely candidate.
But if Etihad looks outside Italy, outgoing Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller would be a known quantity, given the close ties between the Irish and Abu Dhabi companies.
Ryanair's co-chief operating officers Michael Cawley and Howard Millar, who have respectively left and are leaving the airline could also be in contention.
Alitalia chairman Roberto Colaninno has also said he would step down once a deal was reached. Italian media have tipped Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo to succeed him. (Additional reporting Reuters)