Finance head departs Flybe as new boss makes his mark


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The Independent Online

Flybe’s long-standing finance director has resigned, just three working days after the struggling airline’s new chief executive started his job.

Andrew Knuckey had been finance boss at the turbulent regional carrier since 2007. He played the lead role in its 2010 listing on the London Stock Exchange and in the implementation of the first phases of its turnaround plan. That involved Flybe pulling out of Gatwick, selling all its 25 daily slots at the airport to easyJet for £20m, and axeing almost 600 staff, including a fifth of its management team, to save money. In June, Flybe still slumped to a £40.7m annual pre-tax loss.

Since then, the executive chairman role held by the founder Jim French has also been split, making him chairman and handing the former easyJet manager Saad Hammad the chief executive’s job.

Now Mr Knuckey “has decided it is an appropriate time to step down from the board and leave the company as soon as a successor can be appointed”, Flybe said. “Mr Knuckey is looking to pursue a number of finance opportunities,” it added.

A management shake-up has also seen Mr Hammad hire another former easyJet colleague, Paul Simmons, as chief commercial officer, and eliminate three chairs from his boardroom table. Mark Chown, Flybe’s director of corporate strategy, Mike Rutter, managing director of Flybe Outsourcing Solutions, and Andrew Strong, managing director of Flybe UK, “will step down from the board with immediate effect”, Mr Hammad said, although they retain their posts. Flybe had five executives on its board, and five non-executives; it will now have only two executives in its boardroom.

Mr Simmons – who was director of the UK market at easyJet – will join Flybe on 28 October. Earlier roles saw him run brand marketing at easyJet and hold senior positions at Dubai Parks & Resorts and hotels groups Oberoi and InterContinental Hotels.

The airline – Europe’s largest regional carrier – has this summer deferred the arrival of 16 new jets due for delivery in the next two years, delaying the need to pay out £20m. Flybe is cutting costs by £30m from next year, and plans to save £50m a year from 2014. Since the company was floated on the stock market three years ago, it has battled against a drop in flyer numbers, soaring fuel bills and higher airport taxes. Its shares, which floated at 295p, fell 0.5p to 60p.