MUMBAI: Jet Airways (India) Ltd lost its senior-most executives on Tuesday, raising fresh uncertainty over whether the airline, grounded for nearly a month, will ever take to the skies.
Vinay Dube, chief executive officer (CEO), and Amit Agarwal, deputy CEO and chief financial officer, put in their papers, adding to the growing list of top-level exits at the Mumbai-based carrier.
Later in the day, Kuldeep Sharma, company secretary and vice-president of global compliance, joined the list of exits, according to regulatory filings by Jet Airways.
The cash-strapped airline was forced to suspend operations on 17 April as it amassed more than $1 billion in debt. A consortium of lenders, led by the State Bank of India (SBI), that has taken control of the airline had initiated a bidding process, but failed to find a suitor willing to buy a majority stake.
Dube and Agarwal cited “personal reasons” for their resignations. Both executives did not respond to Mint’s queries seeking comments. Sharma could not be reached for comment.
The resignations come at a time when the finance ministry’s Enforcement Directorate has initiated a probe into Etihad Airways PJSC’s investment in Jet Privilege Pvt. Ltd (JPPL), the frequent-flyer programme of Jet Airways. The country’s top economic intelligence agency is seeking to ascertain whether certain foreign direct investment norms were violated when the Abu Dhabi-based carrier took a stake in JPPL in 2014.
The series of senior personnel exits in just about a month has coincided with the ongoing general election that has effectively ruled out a government-backed bailout.
The latest exits are expected to cause fresh setbacks to Jet’s stake sale plans and make it tougher for a potential buyer to take over the reins of the airline.
The resignations come amid efforts by the SBI-led consortium to scout for potential investors to revive the airline. “Either both these top executives saw the writing on the wall and realized that the airline is beyond redemption, or they were asked by SBI to quit,” said an aviation industry executive, requesting anonymity. “The timing of the resignations is indeed odd.”
The resignations come within days of Etihad making a non-binding bid for a minority stake in Jet Airways, subject to several conditions. Mint reported on Monday that Etihad had offered to infuse close to ₹1,400 crore in Jet Airways, aimed at keeping its stake at the current level. This has prompted lenders to look for new investors willing to take a majority stake.
Dube took charge of Jet Airways in August 2017, while Agarwal had joined in December 2015.
Jet Airways has seen a slew of top executives and board members quit in the past few months.
In April, former chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi resigned as non-executive and non-independent director on the airline’s board citing “personal reasons” and “time constraints”.
Independent director Rajshree Pathy left in April, weeks after Jet’s founder-promoter Naresh Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal quit the airline’s board. Last week, top executive Gaurang Shetty, considered close to Goyal, also resigned from the board.