Alitalia has lined up former Ferrari boss Luca Cordero di Montezemolo as chairman and Etihad Airways ceo James Hogan as his deputy in the new company that will be formed when the Italian airline ties up with the Abu Dhabi-based carrier, sources close to the matter said yesterday.
The sources said the two had not been formally appointed because the deal, under which Etihad has agreed to buy 49pc of loss-making Alitalia as part of a €1.76bn rescue plan, still needs approval from European authorities to be offically signed off.
Alitalia and Etihad declined to comment on the matter.
While Montezemolo has long been seen as a candidate to be chairman of Alitalia, the appointment of Mr Hogan as his deputy will likely fall under the scrutiny of European authorities which require that no airline from outside the continent controls a European carrier.
"From a business point of view, having someone like Hogan, who has proven himself in the airlines sector, is definitely a plus and shows Alitalia is serious about wanting to restructure the carrier," said Andrea Giuricin, who is a transport analyst at Milan's Bicocca university. He said that as long as operational powers remained with the chief executive or chairman, the European Commission should not object to the appointment of Mr Hogan.
The Gulf carrier already has stakes in Aer Lingus and Air Berlin, among others, and investing in Alitalia will help it expand in Europe.