Wadia group firm Go Airlines India has denied any ‘generational change’ at the company. The firm was responding to Fortune India’s article ''Why Nusli Wadia has to take charge of Go First at 77?". The Mumbai-headquartered firm says it is a professional enterprise and has managed to retain senior officers/ CXOs for long periods of time, and that board members from the family play the role of mentors for the executive team.
Adding that the family is together, Go Airlines says Jeh Wadia decided to relocate to the UK for family reasons and did not seek reappointment on the company’s board effective December 31, 2020, while Ness Wadia still remains a non-executive board member. The latter attended all crucial meetings, and has been travelling since September 2021. It also says says the airline has not defaulted on any lease payments, and that the IPO process is expected to be launched soon.
Below is Wadia group's rebuttal to Fortune India’s article ''Why Nusli Wadia has to take charge of Go First at 77? "
This is to bring to your notice that the article “Why Nusli Wadia has to take charge of Go First at 77?” authored by Anjuli Bhargava (“author”) and published on 21st October 2021, is misleading, erroneous and factually incorrect. The claim that attempts were made to reach out to us for our response to said article before its publication, is also incorrect. Neither the author of the subject article, nor any person from Fortune India, contacted us / any of our representatives, in relation to said article prior to its publication.
The author has failed to understand the Company or taken account of the perspective of its management or adequate inputs/ insights from Go airlines (India) Ltd. (“company”), or the Wadia Group, and its management. The author has relied on speculation, gossip, hearsay and rumors, and while doing so violated basic principles and tenets of ethical journalism. She has also, relied upon documents selectively, failing to provide the reader their proper context or meaning.
Contrary to the contents of the article, the Company is a professional enterprise and has been able to retain senior officers/ CXOs for long periods of time. As an example, Mr. Giorgio de Roni was CEO from May 2011 to March 2015; i.e., for 4 years. Likewise, the current CEO, Mr. Kaushik Khona served in that position for over 2 years during his first stint and has been back at the helm since August 2020. In fact, almost all senior management teams heading different functions i.e., engineering, safety operations, IOCC, IT, Administration and various other functions, have been with the Company since last more than 8 to 10 years.
The Group and the Company have always instilled stability in the Company's business, and consistency and continuity remain our hallmark.
Mr. Nusli Wadia has been the Non-executive Chairman of the Company since 2005. From the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, he has brought in almost Rs.2,000 crore of his own money into the Company's business. This is over and above personal assets worth over Rs.3,000 crore provided as security since 2010 for the Company to raise money, as and when required.
The Company is not undergoing any generational change in management. Its professional management and team of key management personnel handled its business admirably during the difficult pandemic phase and continue to do so under the guidance of the Board of Directors. Board members from the family play the role of mentors and guide for the executive team, ensuring the company maintains the Group's and family's vision for its role in the industry.
The Company has been delivering well on key operational parameters and the same is being monitored by the Board of Directors.
The Company has posted several industry leading milestones and achievements over its illustrious history, including those clearly mentioned in the Offer Document, which is in the public domain. Latest data from India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) shows that the airline has been showing positive performance indicators after “Mission Begin Again", post the second wave of the deadly and financially devastating COVID-19 pandemic.
As for Mr. Ben Baldanza, he is our Vice- Chairman and a member of our Board. He has been associated with us since 2017. He is an airline veteran with significant experience in low-cost and full service airlines. Prior to joining our Company, he was the President, Chief Executive Officer and Director (principal executive officer) of Spirit Airlines, Inc. He was the first to implement the ULCC model in the United States. He led Spirit Airlines to become the most profitable airline in the United States for 8 consecutive years. He also led Spirit Airlines to its listing on the United States Stock Exchange. Presently, he is on the board of directors of JetBlue Airways and Six Flags Entertainment Corporation.
As for our CEO, Mr. Kaushik Khona, his leadership of the Company has always been indomitable. In his first stint as CEO, our Airline concluded its first order of 72 Airbus NEO aircraft. Moreover, under his stewardship, the Airline not only has shown steady growth, but has earned an EBIDTAR (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortisation, and restructuring or rent costs) per aircraft per month, higher than its competitors. The Company's historical performance on key parameters is given in its publicly available Draft Red Herring Prospectus (“DRHP") filed with the regulator and available in public domain.
As for Mr. Ness Wadia, he remains our non-executive Board member and has attended all crucial meetings where he / promoters have been required. Since September 2021, he has been travelling. It is but natural, in any case, that it has been our CEO, Mr. Khona, who has been representing the Company in line with requirements for any meetings called for by Industry Association(s) or the Ministry.
Between 2010 to 2019 the Airline has shown healthy growth. This can be gleaned even just from the DRHP. Even for the year 2019-20, it made operating profits. The Airline is not in default of any lease payments. As of the date of the said article, it had successfully concluded payment plans with all its lessors.
The IPO process continues and the launch is expected soon. All relevant disclosures have been made in the Offer Documents including the Objects of the IPO/ Public Issue. The DRHP and other Offer Documents comply with every mandate of applicable law. The matters pertaining to the appointment and continuity of the auditors has also been clarified and communicated through the Offer Documents as well as in response to queries. Kalyaniwalla & Mistry, could not continue as auditors of the Company after 2017-18, as per the applicable law and ICAI guidelines. Bansi S. Mehta & Co. were replaced with Walker Chandiok & Co. (associates of Grant Thornton) on the advice of merchant bankers that a company planning an IPO should preferably have, as auditor, a firm among the "Big Four" or “Big Six". Further, the replacement of Walker Chandiok & Co. with MSKA & Associates (part of BDO Group) was necessitated since the former had, in the interregnum, accepted appointment as auditor of SpiceJet.
Our strategy for our airline as an ultra-low-cost carrier is being executed in real time on the lines of Spirit Airlines in the United States and Ryan Air in the United Kingdom and the Europe.
The Company's Management is confident of taking its IPO to its logical conclusion with advice from investment bankers and other advisors.
The family, too, is together. Mr. Jeh Wadia, of his volition, for personal and family reasons, decided to relocate to the UK and did not seek reappointment on the Company's Board of Director effective 31st December 2020.
The DRHP also clearly mentions the competitive strengths, track record and achievements of the Company, including: simple, fuel-efficient and next generation fleet; strong focus on operational efficiency and reliability; established position in slot-constrained airports, with best in class efficiency; selling experiences for the young Indian leisure and MSME travelers; demonstrated track record of growth across key performance indicators; and highly experienced Board and management team compliant with corporate governance requirements, and backed by the Wadia Group.
For Go Airlines (India) Ltd.,
Chief Executive Officer