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Air Malta, consultants say CEO never held beneficial interest in Catalise

Catalise consultants running Air Malta say it was Peter Davies who introduced them to the board, “following rigorous assessment of credentials”.

Matthew Vella
9 May 2012, 12:00am
Air Malta chief executive Peter Davies.
Air Malta's chief restructuring officer, Ray Hart, has denied reports appearing in the Labour media that suggested airline chairman Peter Davies held a shareholding interest in Catalise Pty, the Australian firm that is handling Air Malta's restructuring programme.

Catalise had appointed Davies as a non-executive chairman of its UK company, Catalise plc, shortly after leaving Caribbean Airlines, where several Catalise consultants had worked on its rebranding from BWIA.

Davies held the position between January 2008 and January 2010, but Hart said he has never held a beneficial interest in Catalise.

"Davies was appointed to the Catalise board to enhance internal governance and provide industry insight in the logistics and aviation industries, two industries in which Catalise have considerable experience as does Mr Davies. The appointment was made with the full knowledge of the BWIA/Caribbean Airlines board and it was after his term as CEO of Caribbean Airlines," Hart said in a statement.

Air Malta has a professional services contract with Catalise Pty (Australia), where many of its aviation turnaround experts like Hart and Neale Anderson, and others who worked with Peter Davies at BWIA and SN Brussels, are now employed to the senior management team on a temporary basis until Air Malta gains profitability.

Hart has confirmed that Catalise Pty "was introduced by Mr Davies to the board of Air Malta and following a rigorous assessment of our credentials we were appointed by the Air Malta board of directors."

"At the time of our appointment Davies had no financial interest in or position with Catalise Ltd or Catalise Pty and still does not," Hart added.

Hart contradicted reports appearing in the Labour media which alleged Davies was "serving" both Catalise and Air Malta, which pays the chief executive €350,000 and a €150,000 performance bonus.

"Mr Davies gains no financial benefit from our appointment to this role and any suggestion of such is categorically incorrect. It makes sense for a CEO facing a challenging role to select a team that he has worked with before and trusts to deliver. CEOs across the world do this all the time to help them succeed. It is a normal business practice."

The other Catalise associates include David Wallace, head of project management at Air Malta, who is an associate director of Catalise Pty; airline restructuring consultant Augusto Viansson Ponte, who was formerly employed at Catalise Pty as well as having worked with Davies at BWIA and SN Brussels; investment management consultant Azeem Mian who was employed by Catalise at BWIA; while airline specialist Philip Saunders, who worked with Davies at BWIA before taking the post of CEO at the rebranded Caribbean Airlines, is now Air Malta's chief commercial officer.

Hart said Catalise Pty's managers were totally committed to successfully turn around Air Malta's financial performance. "We believe the airline is making excellent progress and is continuing to deliver on the milestones established in the restructuring plan submitted to the European Commission."

Air Malta's €238 million restructuring requires Brussels's approval to go ahead.

In another statement by Air Malta, the airline categorically denied that Paul Simons - its marketing consultant who has also worked with Peter Davies at Caribbean Airlines - had introduced FutureBrand to Air Malta.

FutureBrand has been entrusted with the repositioning and rebranding of Air Malta, but Labour e-newspaper maltastar.com has hinted that the direct appointment may be contrary to the airline's procurement regulations.

The airline said Simons, formerly chairman of advertising giants TBWA and Ogilvy, was not engaged on a €20,000-a-month contract - as claimed by maltastar.com - and was not involved in recruiting Melinda Kecskes as Air Malta's marketing manager.

"Air Malta has appointed FutureBrand as branding consultants for the airline's rebranding and repositioning to improve its product proposition. Air Malta must differentiate itself from others to ensure it is sufficiently attractive enough to customers whilst meeting its revenue targets," the airline said.

The airline said FutureBrand's track record with other airlines was fundamental in gaining approval from the Air Malta board.

A high-profile market strategist, Paul Simons comes highly recommended by Peter Davies on his LinkedIn profile page: "I've worked with Paul on several major international commercial assignments... I have no hesitation to recommend him to any CEO who has business challenges in the brand marketing space."

Simons previously stated on his LinkedIn profile that his assignment at Air Malta was "on behalf" of Peter Davies, a detail that has since been removed from his profile page but still visible on search engines.

Simons and Davies worked together during the latter's tenure at British West Indian Airlines, later rebranded as Caribbean Airlines as part of a $20 million campaign by Simons's consultancy firm Cagney plc. Simons also lists Air Southwest, a regional airline that was also headed by Peter Davies shortly before its demise, as one of his past clients.

This article was updated on Thursday 10 May at 10:37am.

Matthew Vella

After graduating in anthropology he joined MaltaToday...
Christian Thorn
THey never had it so good thanks to Dr. Tonio Fenech and other Maltese Idiots!
Ken Kasumi
It looks likes the Air Malta management has become a boys club. This guy is getting paid 350,000 plus 150,000 performance bonus, thats half a million. His pal is getting 20,000euros a month. And these guys want to lay off a bunch of workers. Prosit. The sooner the elections come, the better
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