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Qantas Chair Richard Goyder to depart amidst board renewal

Qantas (ASX:QAN) Chair Richard Goyder is set to respond to persistent calls for his departure from the board, with his exit planned for just over a year from now. The airline has made it clear that they won’t attempt to sugarcoat this significant change, referring to it as “board renewal.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Qantas Board announced their intentions, stating, “The Qantas Board today announces plans for board renewal in recognition of the reputational issues facing the Group and to support restoration of trust in the company.”

The departure of the long-serving chair is the central move, and two other directors will also step down in early 2024. Jacqueline Hey and Maxine Brenner will retire at the Qantas half-year results in February 2024 after serving for a decade.

“As planned, three new directors will offer themselves for election at this year’s AGM, including Doug Parker, Dr. Heather Smith, and CEO and Managing Director Vanessa Hudson, along with two existing directors, Todd Sampson and Belinda Hutchinson,” Qantas confirmed.

This move will result in the board having an average tenure of approximately three years by the time of the 2024 AGM.

Goyder will join his longtime associate, former CEO Alan Joyce, in departing the company, marking a turning point after a challenging period for the airline. Qantas has faced a series of public relations crises, parliamentary inquiries, and an investigation with legal action by consumer watchdogs over the sale of tickets for ‘ghost flights’ in 2022.

The airline’s record profit of $2.7 billion for the year ending in June was tarnished when it was revealed that it had retained around half a billion dollars in passenger credits from the pandemic years when customers were unable to travel due to closed borders.

In Wednesday’s statement, Goyder acknowledged the significant reputational and customer service issues facing the Group, emphasizing the need for accountability to rebuild trust. He stated, “Qantas has gone through an incredibly difficult period since our operation was grounded during the pandemic. The recovery has not been easy, and mistakes were made. We again apologize for those times where we got it wrong.”

Goyder expressed his commitment to acting in the best interests of Qantas and endorsed a measured and orderly succession at the board level to support the work led by Vanessa and her new management team. He also highlighted the Group’s strong position to overcome current challenges and serve all stakeholders in the future.

Qantas has indicated that they will begin the search for new non-executive directors in the coming months, as well as a new Chair. Additionally, new committee roles will be appointed in due course. The Board has initiated an independent review of key governance matters over the past 12 months, with outcomes expected to be shared in the second quarter of the calendar year 2024, which corresponds to the three months leading up to June and the end of the 2023-24 financial year.

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