Turkey’s Ilker Ayci declines Air India CEO role in setback for Tata Group

Former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci on Tuesday said he has declined the Tata Group’s offer to be the chief executive officer and managing director of Air India as “some sections of the Indian media” have attempted to “colour” his appointment in an undesirable manner.

Ayci is considered to be close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ally of Pakistan.

RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch had last Friday told PTI that the government should not give clearance to the appointment of Ayci, the chief executive officer (CEO) and managing director (MD) of Air India, “keeping in view national security”.

Tata Sons had on February 14 announced the appointment of Ayci as the CEO and MD of recently-privatised Air India.

“Since the announcement, I have been carefully following news in some sections of the Indian media attempting to color my appointment with undesirable colors,” Ayci said in a statement.

“As a business leader who has always prioritized professional credo and more importantly, the happiness and well being of my family above all else, I have come to the conclusion that it would not be a feasible or an honourable decision to accept the position in the shadow of such narrative,” he added.

Ayci said he remains grateful to the Tata Group and its chairman N Chadrasekaran for extending to him the honour and the opportunity to lead Air India.

“However, at a recent meeting with Mr Chadrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Group, I regretfully informed him and I wish to inform the public, as well, that I will decline the position,” he said.

Ayci said he has taken this decision with a heavy heart, and he wishes Air India and the Tata Group every success.

“I will continue my career by pursuing alternative opportunities with the objective of creating value and building world class businesses,” he said.

Tata Sons did not respond to PTI’s request for a statement on Ayci’s decision.

Salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group had on October 8 last year won the bid to acquire debt-laden state-run Air India by offering Rs 18,000 crore for it.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan had told PTI last Friday, “We feel that government should not give its permission (to Ayci’s appointment) keeping in view national security.”

“I think the government is already sensitive to the issue and has taken up the matter very seriously. I don’t think the government will approve it,” he added.

When asked for the reasons why his organisation is opposed to the newly appointed CEO and MD, Mahajan had reiterated that it is a matter of national security. “After all, decisions are taken about a person based on his relationships,” he had said.

Ayci, 51, led Turkey’s flag carrier for six years from 2015. Turkish Airlines struggled during the first year of the pandemic as air travel slumped but recovered by reducing staff costs and taking advantage of a booming freight business. Under Ayci’s management, Turkish Airlines moved to its new hub in Istanbul, which is set to be the world’s largest airport when fully completed in 2023.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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