Inside Hrdlicka’s Virgin axing: “She did not see it coming at all”

Inside Hrdlicka’s Virgin axing: “She did not see it coming at all”
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Sources close to outgoing Virgin Australia CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka have revealed she was given no warning by US private equity owners, Bain Capital, that her time was up.

    The Australian reported that staff reporting directly to Hrdlicka were shocked by the news, while others at Virgin were in the dark about the departure.

    Virgin staff were informed via email about their CEO’s departure with sources also describing an ‘AI-plant-like’ video response from Bain Capital partner Ryan Cotton which was no longer than 60 seconds.

    It is understood Bain Capital has been unimpressed with performance for up to 12 months with some sources remarking the equity firm believes Hrdlicka was “clearly not capable of executing” strategies to maximise benefits from Qantas 2023 woes.

    Hrdlicka’s high profile at the Australian Open this year as the chair of Tennis Australia is also thought to be a bugbear for Bain Capital after the Virgin CEO spent two weeks ‘schmoozing’ high-profile celebrities and politicians at the event.

    Other key sticking points include a full year profit of $129 million (5 per cent of rival Qantas’ $2.45 billion in the same period) as well as delay and cancellation rates which saw Virgin trailing Jetstar.

    The Boston-based owners of Virgin Australia delivered the news to Hrdlicka last week that her time as CEO would come to an end.

    One source told the Australian, “She was shocked, the blood drained from her face and she cried.”

    “She did not see it coming at all, and nor did those around her.”

    Jayne Hrdlicka is expected to focus on her role at Tennis Australia which will be up for renewal in 2025.

    Qantas CEO, Vanessa Hudson wished Hrdlicka well last Thursday as she delivered Qantas’ 1H24 results. 

    An internal note to Virgin staff from the chair of Bain Capital, Ryan Cotton, seen by Travel Weekly, reads, “I would like to formally extend my thanks and sincere appreciation to Jayne on behalf of the Board for the critical role she has played in getting the airline back on its feet, restructuring the business to ensure that we could be profitable and compete successfully returning to our roots as a value carrier, and making sure we did all of that while staying true to our values and our culture.

    “We have clear plans in place to drive continued growth and margin expansion and Jayne will leave us in great hands with an exceptional team around her and across the organisation.”

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