Cathay Pacific chairman John Slosar resigns as Beijing pressures HK business

(l-r) Former Cathay CEO Rupert Hogg; and Cathay chairman John Slosar who will leave the company after a 39-year career, in early-November.
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Cathay Pacific chairman John Slosar has resigned, the airline said today in a Hong Kong stock exchange filing, as Cathay continues to grapple with the fallout of the democracy protests. The carrier simply noted in a press statement that Slosar was retiring.

The Board of Directors has appointed Patrick Healy to succeed Slosar as chairman, which will take effect at the conclusion of the next board meeting on 6 November 2019.

The surprise news follows the similarly short-notice departure of CEO Rupert Hogg last month, after the Chinese aviation regulator increased scrutiny on the airline and its staff members following anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

The departure of Slosar is likely to be seen in the same light as that of Hogg – that being a result of Beijing’s far-reaching power as Chinese authorities apply increasing pressure on Hong Kong businesses.

Cathay staff participation in protests generated a fire-storm of criticism from the Chinese government, with Beijing ordering the airline to fire any staff involved in protests. In the end some 20 Cathay employees have been dismissed or forced to resign – including pilots, cabin crew, ground staff and managers – according to The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU).

In Slosar’s case, his public defence of staff participating in protests in early-August surely didn’t go down well in Beijing when he said: “We certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something”. Shortly thereafter the repercussions became clear as state-owned bank rated Cathay stock a strong sell and Chinese firms withdrew business.

Slosar ends a long and successful 39-year career with Cathay’s parent, the Swire Pacific Group, which included appointments as CEO of Hong Kong’s flagship airline from 2011 to 2014 and then its chairman from 2014, holding a dual role also at Cathay’s controlling shareholder Swire Pacific until 2018.

On his departure, Slosar comments: “Being the Chairman of Cathay Pacific has been the greatest of privileges for me. I would like to thank the entire Cathay team for their support, commitment and friendship during my years as part of that team. They are always at their best in challenging times, when their dedication really shines through.”

He continues: “Pat is a strong and experienced executive, having successfully led a number of different Swire businesses. He is creative and customer-focused, and I am sure he will lead Cathay Pacific to new heights.”

Pat Healy 2019 CX
Patrick Healy

Merlin Swire, chairman of Swire Pacific, comments: “I would like to thank John for his tremendous contributions to the company over the past 39 years.

“Under his leadership as the Chief Executive Officer and then as Chairman, Cathay has built on its already enviable reputation for quality service and the extensive global network which underpins the success of Hong Kong as Asia’s largest international passenger hub. The three-year transformation programme now nearing completion leaves Cathay well-positioned for continued growth in the future.”

Healy joined the Swire Group in 1988 and spent fourteen years with the Group’s Beverages Division in Mainland China, followed by four years as CEO, HAECO Xiamen. Healy is currently managing director of Swire Coca-Cola Limited. He is also a director of John Swire & Sons (H.K.) Limited and a Non-Executive director of Swire Properties Limited.

Healy says: “I look forward to working closely with CEO Augustus Tang, my long-term Swire colleague, his talented team and the entire Board of Directors. Together, and with the support of the Cathay team, we will ensure that our airlines focus relentlessly on safety, on enhancing the travel experiences of our customers, on being efficient in everything that we do, and on competing effectively to create positive business performance.

“Cathay Pacific has been Hong Kong’s home carrier for over seven decades. Despite current challenges, I am confident in the future of Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific will remain fully committed to this great city as Asia’s key aviation hub.”

Healy will also assume the role of chairman of Swire Coca-Cola and retain responsibility for the Group’s worldwide beverages business.

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