Leaving KL for Jakarta an unavoidable sacrifice, says Fernandes
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 – The choice to base himself in Indonesia was a crucial part of AirAsia’s succession planning and not only allows his designated heir room to grow but also advances the airline’s regional interests, said Tan Sri Tony Fernandes today.
The billionaire music executive-turned-airline-tycoon said that the only way his successor Aireen Omar would be able to grow was by giving her space to come into her own without the risk of having his presence dominating the business.
“And I don’t want to be like some senior politicians who insist on calling the shots long after they’ve handed over the reins,” he said.
“Being out of Malaysia is a necessary part of AirAsia’s succession plan, and it is a sacrifice (AirAsia co-founder) Datuk Kamaruddin and I are willing to make.”
Aireen took over as AirAsia Malaysia CEO in June while Fernandes moved to Jakarta the next month to oversee the group’s regional operations.
Fernandes added that critics of his move to Jakarta were clinging to “outmoded” notions of borders in a globalised economy.
He said that the entry of the Malaysia-Indonesia joint venture airline Malindo into Malaysia was a vindication of his vision that an Asean business model was the way forward.
“Tapping into a combined market of 600 million people is a no-brainer, and I’m proud to say AirAsia was ahead of the pack when it chose to open a regional office in Jakarta to pursue this goal,” said Fernandes.
“This is something right-wing bloggers fail to understand, preferring instead to cling to outmoded notions of borders in a borderless world.”
He also took another aim at critics of his patriotism by noting that he has invested heavily in a private college to help upgrade Malaysia’s education scene.
Under his personal investment holding company Tune Group, Fernandes spearheaded efforts to bring UK’s Epsom College to Malaysia as part of the Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC) and spent RM150 million building the campus.
He pointed out that he also sits on a panel tasked with laying out a new education blueprint for future generations of Malaysians to ensure the education of truly global and competitive Malaysians.
“We have put Malaysia on the world map and we are investing in its future,” said Fernandes. “So how can these right-wing bloggers say that I’ve abandoned Malaysia? What have they done for the country?”
AirAsia is one of Malaysia’s biggest success stories and caused waves of concern when it chose Jakarta to be its regional office rather than its home base of Kuala Lumpur.
The reason given then was that it would be closer to the Asean secretariat although some speculated other reasons such as local politics or that the Malaysian market was considered too small compared to Indonesia.
Critics said that the decision to base regional operations in Jakarta showed AirAsia was ungrateful to the country but those who defended the move said that Malaysian companies need to look outward rather than inward in order to grow.