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AP Photo/Manish Swarup
In distress.
THE GRIND

Timeline: Leadership exodus is the latest piece of bad news at Jet Airways this year

By Itika Sharma Punit

If it wasn’t already dealing with enough, India’s oldest private airline is now running on an empty cockpit.

Jet Airways yesterday (May 14) said three of its top executives have decided to move on. Chief executive Vinay Dube (pdf) and his deputy Amit Agarwal (pdf), who is also the chief financial officer (CFO), have resigned on personal grounds, the company informed the stock exchange BSE. The airline’s company secretary and compliance officer Kuldeep Sharma, too, has quit (pdf). These exits are effective immediately. The chief people’s officer Rahul Taneja also reportedly quit on May 14.

The exodus comes nearly a month after Jet was grounded. Over 20,000 of its employees are yet to receive salaries for the past three months. In the meantime, its new owners, a bunch of lenders led by the State Bank of India (SBI), have so far failed to find a suitable buyer for the company.

“It’s really disappointing for us. Now there is no one in the official position with whom we can talk,” a Jet Airways employee told India Today following the exits. “…it is easy for everyone in the top to walk away. Only we employees will suffer. How can someone just walk away so easily leaving their employees in this situation?”

However, for a leadership team that has survived a slew of shocks since the beginning of this year, walking away may have been the only option.

From the exit of founder and chairman, Naresh Goyal, to the grounding of aircraft over the past several months, Jet has moved from one setback to another in 2019.

Here’s a timeline of how bad news has swept Jet in recent months:

WhenWhat
Feb. 07Jet grounds four aircraft (pdf) due to non-payment of outstanding dues
Feb. 14Board approves a bank-led provisional resolution plan estimating a funding gap (pdf) of around Rs8,500 crore ($1.2 billion), including the proposed repayment of aircraft debt of around Rs1,700 crore
Feb 23-2815 aircraft are grounded due to non-payment of dues
March 01Jet Airways shares rise 6% (pdf) as reports suggest Goyal may step down.
March 01-2237 aircraft are grounded due to non-payment of dues
March 25Goyal finally steps down (pdf). Lenders set up an interim management committee to oversee day-to-day operations and approve an immediate infusion of Rs1,500 crore to keep Jet running
April 02-1125 aircraft are grounded due to non-payment of dues
April 16Media reports say lenders have shortlisted four potential suitors: Etihad Airways, National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), private equity firms TPG Capital, and Indigo Partners
April 17Jet temporarily suspends all flights and operations after lenders refuse to provide emergency funding of Rs400 crore
April 23CEO Dube blames banks for employees’ plight; says they tried to convince lenders to release some funds for salaries but were turned down
April 26A senior technician with Jet Airways, who was undergoing cancer treatment, allegedly commits suicide after struggling to pay bills. His savings had drained and his son, a Jet employee himself, was in financial trouble
April 27Employees and Jet pilots’ body, the National Aviator’s Guild (NAG), appeal to prime minister Narendra Modi to direct lenders to release at least a month’s salary
May 08A group of investors—British entrepreneur Jason Unsworth, Lakshay Uttam, the founder of Amsterdam-based My World Ventures, and investment firms Future Trend Capital, and Redcliffe Capital—evinces interest in Jet. None shortlisted for bids
May 09Sanjay Viswanathan, founder of London-based AdiGroup, says he is bidding for Jet
May 10Jet says it has received a notice (pdf) from the regional provident fund commissioner for not depositing the provident fund of employees since March 2019. “The company officials are engaged with the authority to address the matter,” it tells BSE (PDF)
May 10JetPrivilege receives a notice (pdf) from the directorate of enforcement probing Etihad Airways’ investment in the independent loyalty and rewards management company. “They (JetPrivilege) are appropriately responding to the same,” Jet Airways tells BSE
May 10The first round of bidding ends with Etihad emerging as the sole bidder. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier says it will only buy a minority stake in Jet
May 13Unsolicited bidder, Uttam, reportedly reaches out to Etihad Airways expressing interest in a partnership for Jet
May 14CEO Dube, deputy CEO and CFO Agarwal, and company secretary and compliance officer Kuldeep Sharma resign. Reports also suggest that chief people officer Rahul Taneja has quit