King quits BA job 'to remove speculation'

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The Independent Online
BRITISH AIRWAYS yesterday sought to put the Virgin Atlantic dirty tricks affair behind it as Lord King of Wartnaby resigned early from the chairmanship amid a wide management shake-up, writes Michael Harrison.

The Tory peer had not been due to give up his pounds 150,000-a-year job as non-executive chairman for the honorary post of president until July. But BA said he had decided to hand over now to Sir Colin Marshall, BA's chief executive, 'to remove uncertainty and speculation about the future leadership of BA'.

Also leaving BA is David Burnside, director of public affairs and one of the managers most closely associated with the campaign against Virgin Atlantic. Robert Ayling, marketing and operations director, is promoted to group managing director.

Mr Burnside, a dour but influential Ulsterman, is thought to be leaving with a pay-off of more than pounds 200,000. Lord King, who will be president for three years, will get an office, car, secretary and free first-class travel.

Lord King angrily denied that the changes had anything to with the dirty tricks campaign. But observers believe the affair, which led to an apology to Richard Branson and payment of pounds 610,000 damages, was a key factor.

John Prescott, Labour's transport spokesman, said it was an 'astounding decision' to promote executives who had acknowledged BA's responsibility for 'disreputable activities'.

BA's new flight plan, page 15