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ECONOMY | 06-11-2019 18:00

Flybondi founder sparks controversy by describing Peronism as 'a cancer'

Low-cost airline asks founder Julian Cook to resign from position on board, after he described Peronism as "a cancer that has destroyed Argentina little-by-little for decades."

The board of low-cost airline Flybondi forced its founder to resign from its executive leadership this week after he described Peronism as a “cancer that has destroyed” Argentina “little-by-little for decades.”

The comments, made by Julian Cook, come in the wake of Alberto Fernández’s election victory on October 27. 

The veteran politician will take office on December 10, seconded by his vice-president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who served as head of state for two administrations between 2007 and 2015.

Cook, who according to reports left the position of CEO of the company a year ago but remains a minority shareholder, made the controversial remarks in a private WhatsApp group called “Empresarios por el cambio.” It includes several prominent business figures who favour the Mauricio Macri administration.

The Swiss-born businessman, who also holds dual British and Swiss nationality, announced that he will leave Argentina because he was “sad” about the result of the presidential election, adding that he couldn’t believe that Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – who is set to become vice-president – had “returned.”’

The comments sparked uproar among Frente de Todos voters on social networks, who called for his resignation.

'One day'

"One day Argentina will leave Peronism [behind], a cancer that has destroyed the country little-by-little for decades," Cook wrote, adding that he didn't know "how Flybondi will continue with this 'K' government."

"I will remain on the board, so I will follow the next steps of Flybondi and the country, but from a little further [away]," said the executive, adding that he had "already left my position as CEO" and would "return to London in December."

"I decided to move here from London in 2016 and raised US$75 million to launch Flybondi. Today we have transported two million passengers, 400,000 travelled for the first time in their life by plane. The road was difficult with a exchange rate that went from 16 to 60 pesos, taking into account that we have 70 percent of our costs in dollars.

"Unfortunately, the government of MM [Mauricio Macri] only went halfway down the road, it did not restructure Aerolineas Argentinas, which had a loss of US$680 million in 2018. A shame, when the country has 30 percent poverty."

FlyBondi later denied to various outlets that Cook held such a position, saying he had "ceased to serve as CEO of Flybondi in December 2018, information that was communicated at the time by the company."

From then on, for a few months, "he held a role as a member of the Board of Directors, but without interference in the management of the airline," the company said in a statement, adding that he had now resigned from the position.

'Individual opinions'

 

Peter Yu, the managing partner of the Cartesian Capital Group, Flybondi's largest shareholder, said in a statement that he had "read with consternation and disappointment the recent personal statements of Julian Cook."

"It was Mr. Cook's individual opinions and they don't reflect Flybondi or his shareholders," Yu said.

Flybondi started operations in Argentina in January 2018. After less than two years of operation, it is now the third-largest airline in the country, having carried more than two million passengers to date and holding a market share of nine percent.

For his part, Sebastián Pereira, the CEO of Flybondi, stressed that the company has "achieved great changes in the industry as a wider market, lower rates, thousands of
direct and indirect jobs, and more and better connected provinces."

"These results are the product of a joint work with all governments, national and provincial, in pursuit of the country's connectivity. And we will continue along the same lines with the new authorities. Our only commitment is with the country, which is based on a long-term investment and growth project," he added.

– TIMES/NA

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