9 Things To Know About The First Non-Malaysian Who Will Be The Next MAS CEO

Christoph Mueller has been appointed by Khazanah to replace Ahmad Jauhari Yahya as Malaysia Airlines' new CEO.

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1. Christoph Mueller is a German and was a former pilot

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Christoph: "Being a pilot has taught me a lot. For example, there’s this thing in the aviation industry called “Just Culture”, which encourages pilots, air traffic controllers and other aviation safety professionals to report their own mistakes in an environment based on trust, rather than blame. It acknowledges that a large proportion of errors are honest – the kinds of slips and mistakes that even the best people can make. I believe the business world has much to learn from this non-punitive approach. If you think about it, most families do too. You want to raise your kids to feel they can come home and tell you when they do something wrong, rather than finding it out from the teacher every time. It’s very basic stuff when you think about it, but it’s often the basic stuff that’s missed in the business world."

2. He has an MBA from the University of Cologne and also completed an Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School

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3. Mueller is currently the CEO of Aer Lingus, the national carrier of Ireland. He brings more than 25 years of relevant experience in the aviation, logistics, and even tourism industry.

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“Overall, he has approximately 10 years as a chief executive in divisional and group roles in the airlines sector, as well as extensive boardroom experience, including in the travel sector.

Christoph Mueller has extensive experience within the aviation industry, having held senior positions in Daimler Benz Aerospace, Lufthansa AG, the Sabena Group, DHL and Deutsche Post AG, prior to his roles at TUI Travel plc. He served as the Chief Financial Officer of DHL Worldwide from 2002 to 2004 and became a member of the Executive Committee of Deutsche Post AG in 2004.

4. He was the brain behind Lufthansa’s major turnaround between 1994 and 1999 where he was the senior vice president for network management and corporate planning

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Mueller's track record of corporate turnarounds began from his time at Lufthansa, where he was senior vice president for network management and corporate planning, during the airline’s major turnaround between 1994 and 1999.

5. In 1999, he moved on to head Sabena S.A., the national Belgian airline at that time. Mueller formulated cost cutting measures to fit in line with the Belgian government’s shareholding interests.

Christoph: It can be like a war at the start of a business turnaround. You need endurance, a lot of optimism and a very good team to get through it. You cannot have a nine-to-five attitude – more of a 24/7 one – and you have to win people’s trust very early on. As the CEO of a company on the brink of bankruptcy, people rely on you and you cannot disappoint them.

In 1999, he moved on to Sabena S.A., which was part of the Swissair Group, where he was the Chief Operating Officer before becoming CEO of the Sabena Group. Mueller developed a series of plans to fit in with the Belgium Government’s shareholding including a major cost-cutting programme.

6. In the Airlines industry, Christoph Mueller has 4,072 colleagues in 298 companies located in 93 countries. 2,375 executive movements have been recorded in the last 12 months.

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In the Airlines industry, Christoph Mueller has 4,072 colleagues in 298 companies located in 93 countries. 2,375 executive movements have been recorded in the last 12 months.

7. One of Mueller's key strengths is his strategic and financial planning. He is also known to adopt new technologies to implement change programmes.

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Among Mueller's key accomplishments, he has demonstrated particular strength in strategic and financial planning, as well as structural repositioning of companies in difficulties. This includes implementing change programmes and adopting new technology, distribution and retail solutions decisively.

Christoph: "Risk taking is essential. In today’s corporate world, you often seem to get three consultants making one decision. What is missing is the entrepreneurial ability to take risks. I once had a situation where I took the risk of letting a CFO go after just three months because I felt it would stop the leak in the business. The most important thing was not to get the best replacement, but to get a replacement tomorrow. As such, there was a further risk that the replacement might be only temporary. But in fact, I got one that stayed five years. Basically, I go with the 80/20 rule – that sometimes not every decision is right, but calculated risks very often do pay off."

8. During his four-and-half-year tenure at Aer Lingus, Mueller turned the loss-making airline into a profit-making one within one year in declining Irish market and tepid European market conditions

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Christophe: Helping to turn around businesses in trouble excites me as a leader. Many people ask me why I specialise in this area as it’s generally perceived as painful. But I compare it with someone who, at the end of their initial medical training, decides not to specialise in cosmetic surgery but to work in the emergency room."

Aer Lingus’ sustainable profitability and cash generation are built on a new strategy and business model that has enabled the 78-year-old carrier to compete in a difficult market environment with both traditional legacy airlines and low-cost carriers. It has also developed Dublin to become one of the leading hubs for North Atlantic long-haul traffic. Under his watch, Aer Lingus has overall, ventured into new markets and business models, and successfully repositioned itself from primarily a business-to-business model to a business-to-consumer model with a 90% online distribution.

9. He will be the first-ever foreigner to head Malaysia Airlines and will look to turn MAS into a profitable airline once again

Khazanah Nasional, Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund and MAS's parent company, said discussions were continuing for Mr Mueller to assume his new post before 1 May 2015, but no earlier than 1 March 2015. Mr Mueller's Aer Lingus notice period ends on 1 May.

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