Aer Lingus CEO Mueller to Depart in 2015 After Five Years

Aer Lingus Group Plc said Chief Executive Officer Christoph Mueller will step down in 2015 after five years at the Irish carrier.

Mueller, 52, will stay until May, allowing time for a replacement to be found, the Dublin-based company said in a statement today. It laid out Mueller’s intention to leave four months after Chief Financial Officer Andrew Macfarlane said he’ll quit to take a job in the Middle East.

The resignation is “surprising,” Merrion Stockbrokers analyst David Holohan said in a note. “The news marks an unprecedented point in recent years at the airline, such that both the CEO and CFO would both decide to leave in very quick succession, despite both having been largely successful.”

Under Mueller’s leadership, Aer Lingus resisted a takeover bid from rival Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, expanded its trans-Atlantic routes and struggled to resolve pension disputes that have dogged the carrier. Aer Lingus cut its earnings forecast in June as a strike hit bookings. Previously aviation director at TUI Travel Plc, Mueller took over as CEO in October 2009.

“I feel it is the right time to hand over the reins,” Mueller said in the statement. While there are “significant challenges that we are continuing to address,” the company is “well-positioned both strategically and financially.”

The company’s shares fell 1.4 percent to 1.32 euros as of 8:21 a.m. in Dublin trading, giving it a market value of 700 million euros.

Aer Lingus said earlier this month that former TNT Express NV executive Bernard Bot will take over as chief financial officer from September. Aer Lingus also appointed Federico Balzola as its chief people and change officer.

The company will report half-year earnings on July 30.

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