Lufthansa appoints Christoph Franz as new chief executive starting in 2011

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lufthansa appoints Christoph Franz as new CEO

BERLIN — Deutsche Lufthansa AG on Wednesday named Christoph Franz, the head of its passenger airline business and the man who presided over the restructuring of Swiss International Airlines, as its new chief executive.

Franz, 50, will take over as CEO on Jan. 1, Germany’s biggest airline said. His term will run through May 31, 2014.

Franz will replace Wolfgang Mayrhuber, who has led the company since 2003. He is currently Mayrhuber’s deputy.

Franz’s appointment had been widely expected.

Lufthansa said Franz was a member of the staff team responsible for turning around the airline following the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.

He then moved to German national railway operator Deutsche Bahn AG, where he became chief executive of the passenger transport division.

Franz became CEO at Swiss International Airlines in 2004 and restructured the Lufthansa unit. He has been a member of Lufthansa’s executive board since June 2009.

“With Christoph Franz at the helm and his broad wealth of experience, foresight and determination to implement change, our company will continue to be able to react to future challenges with the necessary speed and flexibility,” Mayrhuber said in a statement.

Franz said he was “looking forward to facing the industry’s challenges with a strong team of over 116,000 employees.”

The Lufthansa group also includes the German airline’s cargo division, Swiss International Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Germanwings and Britain’s BMI. The company holds stakes in Brussels Airlines and JetBlue of the U.S.

Lufthansa shares closed down 1.9 percent at €13.40 ($17.60) in Frankfurt. The DAX index of blue-chip stocks dropped 1.1 percent.

Lufthansa more than doubled its net earnings to €194 million in the second quarter as ticket sales and the cargo business recovered.

At the meeting Wednesday where Franz was appointed, Lufthansa’s supervisory board also approved an order of 48 new planes, largely from European aircraft maker Airbus, with a list value of some €3.5 billion.

Lufthansa said the order includes eight longhaul A330-300 planes for Lufthansa and Swiss, as well as 32 A319, A320 and A321 jets for Lufthansa, Swiss and budget subsidiary Germanwings. The Lufthansa Regional operation is to get eight Embraer 195 planes.

“This order will allow our airlines to make targeted use of the growth opportunities that are resulting from the growing demand,” Mayrhuber said.

The new planes are to be delivered starting in 2012.

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