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Breaking: Qantas stops ‘defecting’ Velocity CEO starting job on Monday

written by Adam Thorn | April 30, 2021
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, left, wants to stop Virgin Velocity’s new CEO, Nick Rohrlach, right, from starting the job before a full case can be heard.

Qantas has won its last-minute injunction to stop Velocity’s ‘defecting’ new CEO from starting his job on Monday.

The decision in the High Court of Singapore means Nick Rohrlach will remain on gardening leave until after a final hearing takes place regarding his appointment, likely to be in June or July.

It marks the latest twist in the row between the two airlines, which started after it emerged Rohrlach accepted a job working for Qantas’ loyalty scheme before switching to the Virgin rival shortly afterwards.

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Qantas’ victory is hugely significant given it lost two previous cases to hold the full hearing in Australia rather than Singapore, whose courts traditionally favour employees.

Virgin reacted by issuing a statement saying it “categorically denies allegations that it has been anything but proper and appropriate” and is confident it will be “vindicated” in court.

“We look forward to welcoming Mr Rohrlach to the Virgin Australia family with open arms and showing him why we are Australia’s most loved airline with a winning team that attracts the very best,” the business said.

The flag carrier is taking the action because it says it had already shared highly sensitive information while onboarding Rohrlach, who was also the ex co-CEO of Jetsar Japan.

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Qantas ultimately wants Rohrlach to serve his six-month gardening leave, which would delay his start date from May until 18 September.

However, the case is complicated because Rohrlach signed the contract in Singapore, and also applied for anti-suit protection there to stop Qantas from enforcing the extended start date.

Qantas argued in the NSW Supreme Court initially that the case should be held in Australia because subsequent agreements nullified another clause in the contract to only allow legal action to take place in Singapore.

It also argued holding it in Australia would be more convenient to all parties.

However, Justice David Hammerschlag said in the first hearing that Qantas only “faintly” argued its case and said its submission was “unsustainable”.

“The choice of jurisdiction is clear,” Justice Hammerschlag said. “There is no challenge to the jurisdiction of Singapore … that the proceedings have to be conducted remotely and that the parties will be separated from their Australian lawyers are matters of mere inconvenience. Remotely conducted proceedings have been the order of the day for more than a year now.”

The judge ordered Qantas to pay Rohrlach and Virgin’s costs.

Qantas then called the manner of Rohrlach’s defection “an inglorious sequence of events” before its rival hit back by arguing that it was disappointed “the dominant market player” had “chosen to attack us rather than get on with the job at hand”.

“At this particularly critical juncture, with vaccines rolling out and new virus variants emerging, Australian airlines need to work to get our country flying again,” Virgin added.

Qantas then lost an appeal in March to hear the case in Australia.

In January, Australian Aviation reported how new Virgin chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka’s refreshed senior team included just one executive remaining from predecessor Paul Scurrah’s era.

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11 Comments

  • john

    says:

    is this newsworthy ?

    Who cares ?

    I just want to know when I can use my velocity points on delta flights within USA !!!!

  • Josh

    says:

    Which flag carrier do you mean?

  • Nev Gibson

    says:

    A barely aviation related story?

  • Ted

    says:

    Question: how long will he last at Virgin?
    If he’s done this action to QANTAS, it’ll be interesting to see if he doesn’t leave Virgin, when he gets a better job offer.

  • Vicky

    says:

    Joyce is a disgusting person, he should be sacked…I will never fly Qantas as long as this creep is in control…I would rather fly Rex…

  • Anonymous

    says:

    Thats big of them seeing Qantas failed to wait for the dismissal case before sacking all it’s ground workers.

    Joyce is the single reason why I have never flown Qantas. He’s a petulant child that has a full range of double standards that leans towards profit, not people that even politicians would struggle to match.

  • Doug4500

    says:

    With Q’s attitude, I doubt Nick Rohrlach would want to work there now, anyway. If I was him wouldn’t give them the pleasure of my presence. This is just Joyce’s ego and bullying once again. He needs to learn that you can’t force someone to love you!

  • Nicholas

    says:

    “Interesting” comments that don’t reflect well on the readers of this story.

    All the comments don’t seem to be able to grasp the opportune nature of the Virgin move, and the commercial rational behind the QF action…

    Sensible action by QF that any other company in the same situation would do..

    • Craigy

      says:

      @ Nicholas, you are wasting your time trying to comment when there are so many unhinged Qantas and Joyce haters commenting. Facts are never a consideration.

  • Td

    says:

    You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do the job nor is anyone indispensable including the CEO. Any lateral thinker will get it done. There’s more to this commercial relationship than meets the eye.

  • Craigy

    says:

    I am afraid from where I sit, I think Mr Rohrlach lacks integrity and honesty. A willingness to deceive your employer by learning all the commercial secrets of an important part of the business while negotiating with a rival for a role equivalent he was being prepared for tells me he is dishonest. Other companies should be wary of this individual.

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