LONDON – KLM has announced that its CEO Pieter Elbers will not seek an additional term and will step down in 2023.
Cees ‘t Hart, the Chairman of the Board commented on this news, explaining the reason behind it:
“In view of the expiration of his second term, which provides the supervisory board a natural moment for consideration, we have, after consultation with Pieter, concluded not to enter into a third term,”
“[The search for a successor will take place when] the restructuring plan has largely been implemented, which positions KLM well for recovery and further development,”
“With 30 years at KLM, 11 years on the board of management including two terms as CEO, Pieter has an enormous track record and significance for KLM. Partly for this reason, it is important that we are able to achieve a smooth leadership transition.”
Elbers also commented on his departure, saying the following:
“I am handing over the baton with full confidence,”
“It goes without saying that I am committed to supporting KLM in this transition to new leadership. I am extremely proud of this company and its fantastic employees. Especially in these hectic and difficult times, they remain the strength of KLM.”
A Political Move?
It is no secret that there is no autonomy within the Air France-KLM Group, with KLM always performing much better than its sister carrier.
Many in the industry believe that Elber’s departure will pave the way for the Dutch carrier to become more integrated with the French side of the group.
Elbers was a keen defender of autonomy within KLM, which was not appreciated by the CEO of the Air France-KLM Group, Ben Smith, who was appointed in 2018 to improve profitability.
Smith tried to oust Elbers back in 2019, but this failed after employees at the Dutch carrier organized a petition in support of their CEO.
Smith did comment on Elber’s departure, which was very short:
“[I am] “grateful for the spirit in which this process [to not renew Elbers’s mandate as CEO] has been held.”
“I thank Pieter for his commitment and I know I can count on him and the entire KLM team to ensure a smooth leadership transition with his successor,”
It is also seen by analysts now that the order made in December 2021 by Air France-KLM for 100 Airbus A320neo Family aircraft produced the sign that Elber’s influence in his role was diminished as the group was going to push forward these new aircraft regardless.