Paul Scurrah has insisted his departure as chief executive of Virgin was mutual and said replacement Jayne Hrdlicka is the “right person” to deliver on new owner Bain’s plan.
The comments were released hours before the business formally exited administration in a candid interview with the Curveball podcast.
Scurrah’s surprise departure last month was significant because he was synonymous with the airline’s plan to operate as a mid-market ‘hybrid’ rather than reverting back to being a low-cost carrier like predecessor Virgin Blue.
Hrdlicka, meanwhile, had a notoriously fraught relationship with unions in her earlier role at the Qantas Group.
“Quite often, you see private equity will go to people they know and people who they feel as a safe set of hands and aligned to their outcomes,” said Scurrah. “And that is the reason why they have appointed Jayne.
“Personally for me, I think in the last 18 months, I don’t think I’ve had an easy day — so it has felt like five years; I am incredibly tired. I had to dig deep at times. I lost a lot of sleep, which is not the best way to prepare to be mentally sharp.”
He went on to insist he would be “cheering from the sidelines” and said he was very good at restructuring firms while taking the staff on board with him.
“As hard as it was to ask a lot of people … to leave the company, through no fault of their own … [it] didn’t have to come with being callous or brutal,” Scurrah continued.
“And we did it in a way where people who have left have all expressed their gratitude to the way they were handled. And that’s something I’m particularly proud of.”
After Scurrah’s exit, it then emerged nine directors would leave the company, including chairperson Elizabeth Bryan, in advance of Bain formally becoming the new owner of Virgin Australia on Tuesday.
Bain has resolutely defended the appointment of incoming chief executive Hrdlicka, arguing that she would provide a “different form of leadership” needed to survive.
“We need a hands-on CEO with deep aviation, commercial, operational and transformation experience,” said Bain Capital managing director Mike Murphy in a statement. “She has extensive airline experience and I know she, alongside Bain Capital, wants nothing more than to see Virgin Australia prosper and thrive well into the future.”
The TWU also announced it would resume negotiations with Virgin over working terms after suspending talks the day before Scurrah apparently resigned.
National secretary Michael Kaine said the organisation, and other unions, would go back to the table with new owner Bain after receiving information “reconfirming” the carrier’s plan to become a mid-market hybrid and not a low-cost carrier.
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