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Abu Dhabi’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Takes Control of Etihad Airways and CEO Tony Douglas Confirms He is Leaving Airline

Abu Dhabi’s Sovereign Wealth Fund Takes Control of Etihad Airways and CEO Tony Douglas Confirms He is Leaving Airline

Abu Dhabi’s government-controlled sovereign wealth fund has confirmed that it is to take control of the Etihad Airways Group as part of what the ADQ investment and holding company called Etihad’s “next phase of sustainable growth”.

The takeover was announced by ADQ around the same time on Tuesday evening that Tony Douglas hosted reporters and influencers who had been flown to Abu Dhabi for the launch of a new Business Class experience in partnership with Georgio Armarni’s homeware line Armani / Casa.

Etihad Airways to Axe 50 Pilots By End of January in Major Cost Cutting Drive
Photo Credit: Etihad Airways

Douglas was all smiles at the event and offered no indication that he was about to step down from his position as chief executive officer at Etihad. He has been at the helm of the embattled airline since January 2018.

But on Wednesday morning, Douglas confirmed he was leaving Etihad to “pursue an opportunity elsewhere”. Douglas is widely believed to have been tapped by Saudi Arabia’s own sovereign wealth fund to help launch a new Riyadh-based international airline that will take on regional rivals including Etihad and even Emirates.

Douglas will be replaced by Antonoaldo Neves, former chief executive and board member at Portugal’s flag carrier TAP. Never has also served as President at the David Neeleman-created Azul Airlines in Brazil.

Late last year, Etihad agreed to divest nearly all of its subsidiary aviation businesses to ADQ so that it could focus on its core airline business. The businesses were transferred to ADQ’s control earlier this year.

On Tuesday, ADQ said that Abu Dhabi’s Supreme Council for Financial and Economic Affairs had also agreed to transfer Etihad Airways into its control.

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Douglas spent his time at Etihad shrinking the airline to make it profitable again but on Tuesday ADQ said it would now focus on turning Abu Dhabi into a “sustainable and global aviation hub” once more.

“Tony has led Etihad through some of its most challenging times and has successfully turned the airline into a profitable and sustainable business over the past five years,” commented the group’s chairman His Excellency Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa.

“As we’re entering our next phase of sustainable growth, we are confident that Antonoaldo will build on Tony’s legacy. We thank Tony for all the hard work he has delivered. Etihad will continue to serve Abu Dhabi as the national airline of the UAE, delivering world-class services and exceeding global benchmarks in the near future.”

In July, posted a record half-year profit for the first six months of 2022 after witnessing a post-pandemic surge in travel demand. Between January and June 2022, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier said it made a core operating profit of US $296 million, compared to a near $400 million loss during the same period in 2021.

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