Scurrah seen as front-runner for Virgin Australia CEO

February 05, 2019

Former logistics chief Paul Scurrah is emerging as the media favorite to replace outgoing Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti.

Both of Australia’s national newspapers have touted Scurrah, the former head of Stevedoring company DP World, as the potential replacement for Borghetti.

The Australian has said the chief executive of Scandinavia’s SAS, Rickard Gustafson, is also in the running.

Gustafson is an experienced aviation executive who joined SAS in 2011 as president and CEO. He has also worked with Andersen consulting, held leadership positions in Europe and the US with GE Capital and headed the Codan insurance group.

Former Hawaiian chief executive Mark Dunkerley, who was at one stage considered a strong possibility, is said to have fallen out of the race.

The newspapers are predicting an announcement will be made this month and one possibility is the airline’s interim results announcement.

The Australian Financial Review said the board regarded Scurrah for his operational skills, political connections and ability to deal with unions.

Paul scurrah
Paul Scurrah

Scurrah is no stranger to aviation — he worked for Qantas and Ansett and has cited former Qantas chief executive James Strong as one of his influences.

He has also indicated his time spent at Ansett in its waning years gave him special insight into the key drivers of business success.

Prior to taking the helm at DP World in 2013, he was executive vice President commercial and marketing at freight company Aurizon.

Other positions include chief executive at Queensland Rail, where he rolled out innovations such as quiet carriages and free wi-fi as well as a customer charter.

His efforts at QR earned him the accolade of CEO of the Year (public sector) from the Customer Service Institute of Australia.

Borghetti announced in June 2018, that he would not renew his contract past the end of 2019 but it has been widely held that he would depart sooner.

Borghetti replaced Virgin Australia founder Brett Godfrey as chief executive in May 2010 and set about reinventing Virgin as a full-service carrier, competing with Qantas for the premium market while acquiring low-cost carrier Tigerair Australia to cover the low-end Australian leisure market.

He came from Qantas where he held a number of senior executive positions after starting his career in the company’s mail room. He was executive general manager of Qantas for six years prior to leaving the airline.