SAS CEO Rickard Gustafson will retire no later than 1 July. He himself says that it is time to leave the baton behind. Instead, Gustafson takes over as top manager of a much larger company – the ball bearing giant SKF.
Rickard Gustafson has been CEO of SAS for ten years. Like many competitors, the company has been hit very hard by the pandemic. But the corona crisis is not the only difficulty that Gustafson has had to deal with.
When he took office in 2010, he mentioned competition from low-cost companies as a challenge, and since then SAS has had to parry pilot strikes, aviation embarrassments and most recently the pandemic. In March, a serious Rickard Gustafson announced that demand had largely disappeared, and that up to 10,000 employees could be laid off. So far, more than 5,000 employees have had to leave their jobs since the pandemic broke out.
During the past year, SAS has fallen on the stock exchange and lost two thirds of its value. At the same time, SKF’s share has climbed by 22 percent.
TT has applied for Rickard Gustafson, but has been informed that he is not available for an interview.
Looking for a new boss
SAS has already started looking for a replacement. “I am both disappointed and sad that Rickard chooses to move on from his important role in SAS. The company is still in a critical, but stable, position and the board has, of course, immediately begun the process of appointing a new President and CEO “, says the airline’s chairman of the board Carsten Dilling in a press release.
Joakim Bornold, savings economist at Söderberg & Partners, says that Gustafson has done a good job during his years at SAS.
– He has been very stable in a company and an industry that has been very shaky. With the conditions he has had, you have to give him a good grade. It has been ten very tough years. Not just for SAS, but for the entire aviation industry.
That Rickard Gustafson will be the new President and CEO of SKF is not surprising, according to Bornold.
– He has been a name that has appeared for a long time in all major Swedish CEO appointments.
The departure is certainly not what SAS needs in the pressured situation, writes Jacob Pedersen, head of research at Danish Sydbank, which follows SAS, in an analysis: “The next few months, when the restart of traffic slowly begins, will require many big decisions. CEO on his way out the door, Rickard Gustafson risks saying goodbye to leaving SAS in a vacuum at a crucial time “, Pedersen writes.
He agrees with the tribute chorus for the resigning top manager: “Through efficiencies and a commercial focus, Rickard Gustafson managed to create a profit in SAS five years in a row.”
But the situation for the company now is tough. “SAS has replenished the coffers through recapitalization, but the flights remain on the ground and the money flows out of the coffers,” Pedersen writes.
SAS in its most serious crisis ever
Bornold is supported by Hans Jørgen Elnæs, aviation analyst at the consulting company Winair. “He has been a clear and powerful CEO who has navigated SAS through a lot of turbulence, both internally and externally,” he writes in an email to TT.
At the same time, Elnæs points out that it is not positive that the CEO is leaving now that the company is in perhaps the most serious crisis ever. On the other hand, a new CEO can add new energy to both the company and the employees.
“I do not think that SAS will be affected by Rickard Gustafson quitting, except that some SAS colleagues are probably a little disappointed,” writes Hans Jørgen Elnæs.
SKF announced in mid-November that CEO Alrik Danielson will resign in 2021. Exactly when Gustafson will take up the managerial job there is unclear. SAS writes that Gustafson will leave the company no later than 1 July, while SKF states that he will take over during the first half of this year.
“After a thorough and robust search process, we are very pleased to be able to welcome Rickard Gustafson to SKF. Rickard Gustafson’s strong and modern leadership, broad international experience and energy make him the right person to lead the continued implementation of SKF’s strategy, ”says the company’s Chairman of the Board Hans Stråberg in a press release.
Facts: Rickard Gustafson
Rickard Gustafson has been CEO of SAS Group since 2011.
He has a background in the insurance and finance industry and was before he joined SAS’s CEO of Codan / Trygg-Hansa. He worked for ten years within the GE Capital Group in several leading positions. Prior to that, he was a consultant at Andersen Consulting (which later became Accenture).
He has a degree in civil engineering with a focus on industrial economics from Linköping University.
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