Sydney to make big hitter Gonski new chairman

written by Adam Thorn | February 24, 2021
David Gonski will become Sydney Airport's new chairman in May (UNSW)
David Gonski will become Sydney Airport’s new chairman in May (UNSW)

Sydney Airport will appoint David Gonski as its new chairman in May, replacing long-standing board member Trevor Gerber.

Gonski is one of Australian business’ most well-regarded names, and has previously held the same position at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Coca-Cola and the ASX. He’s also the chancellor of UNSW, president of the Art Gallery of NSW Trust and director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

The news was revealed on the same day the airport announced a full-year loss of a $145 million, down from $403 million profit a year earlier.

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Outgoing chairman Gerber, who has been a board member since May 2002, said his time in the role was one of the highlights of his career.

“In 2002, the airport welcomed 24 million passengers a year and it has been a privilege to work with my fellow board members and management teams to grow that to more than 44 million passengers in 2019,” he said.

“In the last year, the airport has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, and the board and management have focused on protecting our people and our business so that we are best placed for recovery. With an experienced management team and tremendous group of employees, a diversified business with a strong financial position and a clear path to recovery as borders open, I believe now is the right time to hand over leadership of the airport.

“I am very pleased that David has agreed to succeed me as chairman. In his two and a half years on the board, he has served on both the Audit and Risk Committee and the Safety, Security and Sustainability Committee, and has developed an extensive understanding of the operations of the airport.

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“David brings aviation experience and knowledge of the needs of our airline partners through his time as a director of Singapore Airlines Limited from 2006 to 2012.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Australian Aviation reported that the business’ chief executive Geoff Culbert was “cautiously optimistic” that the industry would recover this year, despite recording huge losses.

“As difficult as the crisis has been, I’m proud of the way we kept the airport open as an essential service and protected the business and everyone who works across the airport precinct,” said Culbert.

“We moved quickly to control the things that were in our control and put ourselves in a position to manage the unpredictability and volatility that became our ‘new normal’. The actions we took, combined with the COVID-19 vaccines rolling out, mean we have laid the foundation for our recovery through 2021 and beyond.

“The recovery won’t be linear, but our experience shows that when restrictions are eased and borders come down, people are keen to travel.

“We take great confidence from our financial and operational response to COVID-19, which puts us in a strong position to manage through to the recovery and make the most of it when it arrives.”

Last week, Australian Aviation reported how Sydney Airport’s domestic passenger traffic slumped more than 70 per cent in January as states closed their borders due to COVID resurgence.

In a statement to the ASX, the business revealed the numbers travelling through were 196,000, down from 659,000 in December.

It follows the ‘Northern Beaches cluster’ of COVID cases causing states to impose travel restrictions in December, followed by a snap lockdown in Brisbane in early January.

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