Kenya Airways starts search for Naikuni’s replacement - Daily Nation

Kenya Airways starts search for Titus Naikuni’s replacement

Thursday March 6 2014

Kenya Airways chief operating officer Mbuvi Ngunze (left) and chief executive officer Titus Naikuni during an investor media briefing on November 13, 2013. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | FILE

Kenya Airways chief operating officer Mbuvi Ngunze (left) and chief executive officer Titus Naikuni during an investor media briefing on November 13, 2013. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | FILE NATION MEDIA GROUP

By MUTHOKI MUMO
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Kenya Airways has officially launched the search for a new chief executive as Mr Titus Naikuni prepares to leave the company by December.

The national carrier has chosen a US-based firm Spencer Stuart to lead its hunt for a new chief executive marking an end of Mr Naikuni’s 11 year stint at the helm.

In an ad, KQ called for applications from business leaders who are able to interact with both public and private sector stakeholders.

The candidate must have “10-15 years senior management experience and a minimum 10 years as an executive director.” Experience in the African aviation market will be an added experience.

Mr Naikuni joined KQ in February 2003 and was expected to retire last year. However, KQ’s board asked him to stay for one more year to steer the company through a turbulent period.

The Naikuni era of KQ’s history was marked by aggressive expansion. The airline now operates on over 60 routes from the 25 that it plied when he joined the company in 2003. (READ: New plane to take KQ directly to Paris)

However, the company has also suffered some major disappointments. One of Naikuni’s lowest moments was in 2007 when a plane crash in Doula, Cameroon saw 114 people die.

KQ sunk into loss-making territory in 2012 amid reporting a loss after tax of Sh4.78 billion in the six months to September 2012 but swung back to profitability reporting earnings of Sh384 million in half year to September the year after. (READ: Naikuni to quit as KQ records Sh384m profit)

A move to cut costs in 2012 by retrenching workers went awry and saw the airline entangled in a precedent-setting court battle. (READ: KQ starts rehiring sacked staff)

Although KQ has opened up the recruitment process for the post of chief executive to the market, two top managers are said to be racing neck-and-neck for the job. Mr Mbuvi Ngunze who was brought in from the cement industry in 2011 as KQ’s chief operating officer while the other is Mr Alex Mbugua who has been group finance director since 2008.

Whoever is chosen to replace Naikuni will have to ensure that the company maintains profitability even as the African skies grow more turbulent. A new chief executive will also be tasked with seeing to fruition KQ’s ambitious 10-year growth strategy, a project dubbed Mawingu.

EXPAND ITS FLEET

Under the plan, the company plans to expand its fleet to 103 from the 41 it had in July 2013. The company plans to protect its place in the African market from newcomers as it derives at least half of its revenues from here.

Dutch Airline KLM, which owns 26.73 per cent of KQ shares is expected to have a say on whoever succeed Mr Naikuni. (READ: Kenya Airways extends its regional accord with KLM)

Interested individuals have two weeks to submit applications to American executive-recruiting firm. It has built a reputation developing succession plans for companies and recruiting executives.

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