February 07, 2014
Lufthansa has named Carsten Spohr as the new group CEO. Spohr, 47, will replace Christoph Franz who is becoming chairman of Swiss pharmaceutical group Roche.
The decision in favor of Spohr follows a tedious search internally and externally that began in mid-September 2013, when Franz confirmed that he would not extend his contract. Spohr has always been considered the favorite for the job by most observers, but Lufthansa Chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber had also launched an extensive formal recruitment process and is said to have preferred to bring in an outsider. Company sources say he only turned back to promote Spohr when it became obvious that he would not find another candidate.
Spohr has so far run the group’s Lufthansa and Germanwings brands. He is an Airbus A320-rated captain and started his management career at the airline in 1994. From 1995 to 1998 he was executive assistant for then-CEO Juergen Weber and was later responsible for alliances, strategy and partner airlines. From 2007 Spohr led a turn-around of Lufthansa Cargo as CEO and later returned to the passenger airline business which he has run since 2011.
Spohr is regarded as a charismatic and outgoing executive who has initially been slow to adopt the tough reforms that Franz had initiated. But he insists he is now fully behind the Score program, which aims at improving Lufthansa’s operating result by €1.5 billion ($2 billion) from 2015 onwards.
He faces a challenging task – continuing the restructuring which includes around 3,000 job losses in administration and at the same time restoring peace within the group. But the airline is facing another pilot strike, most likely in March, over the planned reform of retirement benefits.
Lufthansa has not yet named a successor for Spohr in his current function at the helm of the airline, but will do so once it has found a suitable executive. Harry Hohmeister, currently Swiss CEO and Lufthansa board member for affiliated airlines, is seen as one possible internal candidate, although many believe Mayrhuber will now look outside the company again.