Acting CEO’s incomplete studies good enough – SAA

The SAA board stands by its appointment of Nico Bezuidenhout as acting chief executive officer (CEO).

“The board of South African Airways (SAA) stands by its decision to appoint Mr Nico Bezuidenhout as acting chief executive officer based on his proven experience, capability and track record,” it said in a statement today.

“In the opinion of the board, the tertiary studies that Mr Bezuidenhout has completed, although incomplete, provides sufficient grounding while his performance track record certainly exceed that of a number of previous, and highly qualified, airline CEO’s.”

The board said while it was not proposing to compare Bezuidenhout to other people, history was “littered with examples of extremely successful individuals who did not complete their tertiary degrees”.

It mentioned Michael Dell CEO of Dell Computers, Richard Branson founder of Virgin Atlantic, industrialist Henry Ford, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Larry Ellison, co-founder of computer technology company Oracle, and Ray Kroc, credited with expanding McDonald’s from a small restaurant.

The Sunday Times reported that Bezuidenhout was the latest in a series of high-profile executives and politicians who had been exposed for overstating their qualifications.

SAA admitted this week that its 2011 and 2012 annual reports were wrong to state that Bezuidenhout had a BCom in transport economics and industrial psychology as well as an MBA.

Today, the airline said Bezuidenhout was head-hunted on behalf of SAA by Heidrick and Struggles to head-up E-Commerce operations at SAA in 2001.

“His CV on record at Heidrick and Struggles and at SAA HR at the time, from this first interaction, never claimed tertiary qualifications,” the board said.

“His credentials were verified in accordance to standard SAA practices at the time, both by SAA as well as the Executive Search firm ... Any claim that Mr Bezuidenhout misrepresented his qualifications is blatantly untrue.”

The SAA board said the incorrect information printed in the 2011 and 2012 annual reports were corrected at the earliest opportunity – in the 2013 annual report.

The error was never published elsewhere and other public documents indicated that Bezuidenhout never claimed qualifications that he did not have nor attempted to mislead anyone, the board said.

SAA said Bezuidenhout’s proven track record and subsequent appointment as acting CEO was in the best interest of the business.

Yesterday, Mango said Bezuidenhout at no time misrepresented his qualifications to the Mango Airlines board.

Bezuidenhout had led Mango for eight years since its inception, with both the vision and the integrity that was incumbent of a CEO, Mango chairperson Rashid Wally said.

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