Norwegian Promotes Its CFO Geir Karlsen To CEO

The new Norwegian will not just look different in operating model and fleet size – it will have new leadership too. Having temporarily acted as CEO for six months previously, current CFO Geir Karlsen has been promoted to the post permanently, effective immediately. Outgoing CEO Jacob Schram will continue to support the airline during his notice period.

Norwegian Boeing 737
Norwegian has a new CEO to lead it into recovery. Photo: Norwegian

A new CEO for the new Norwegian

Just one month since Norwegian exited bankruptcy protection, its CEO has been removed from post. After just 18 months in post, Jacob Schram will no longer lead the airline, and will be replaced by current CFO Geir Karlsen.

Karlsen has been with Norwegian as its CFO only since April 2018. When founder and former CEO Bjorn Kjos stepped down in July 2019, Karlsen took on the role of acting CEO until the appointment of Jacob Schram. Now, having led Norwegian through its restructuring, the board voted yesterday to make Karlsen the permanent CEO of the airline.

Svein Harald Øygard, chairperson of Norwegian’s Board of Directors, issued a statement regarding Karlsen’s appointment, which read,

“I am pleased to announce that Geir Karlsen on request of the Board has accepted the job as CEO of Norwegian. Karlsen has successfully led the financial reconstruction of Norwegian and has the competencies, focus, trust and dedication that makes him the best choice as CEO of Norwegian.

“As travel bans now are about to be lifted, Norwegian stands ready to offer thousands of flights to our customers in the Nordics and abroad. In parallel, further efforts will be made to strengthen Norwegian´s position as a low-cost airline and to return the company to sustainable profitability. Geir is the ideal CEO to lead these efforts.”

Geir Karlsen Norwegian
Geir Karlsen has been CFO for over three years, and acting CEO for six months. Photo: Norwegian

It’s just a month since Norwegian emerged from bankruptcy protection, armed with over $700 million in fresh capital. Since January, the airline has been working towards moving back to its short-haul operating model, abandoning the transatlantic market in favor of surviving on intra-European endeavors instead.

But that doesn’t mean that the airline’s ambitions have been completely curbed. Although it exits bankruptcy protection smaller and with fewer orders in place, it still plans to increase its operations to 70 aircraft in 2022. Karlsen is seen as the perfect leader to guide the airline through its restart.

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Effective immediately

The appointment of the new CEO is to take effect immediately from today, June 21st. Jacob Schram will remain in the background of the airline, however, as his contract states he is entitled to a nine-month notice period.

During this time, he will support the board on a full-time basis, up until March 31st, 2022. He’ll receive his full salary for the period, as well as a 15-month severance payment, something Norwegian’s board was not entirely happy about. The board said today that it had tried to reduce the severance payment to a level that was reflective of the current challenges facing the industry, but that it was unsuccessful.

Norwegian is looking at growing its fleet from 50 aircraft to 70 by the end of 2022. Photo: Norwegian Air

Karlsen responded to the news of his appointment, commenting,

“I appreciate the trust given by the Board of Directors, and I am pleased to accept the opportunity of serving Norwegian in a new role as CEO. Going forward, our main priorities will be to increase the profitability of our low-cost operations and to attract new and existing customers in all key markets.

“Norwegian is well positioned following the recent reconstruction of the company, with a strong brand, proven products and services, and not least a team of highly experienced colleagues ready to fight for every customer.”

With Karlsen moving up to the top job at the airline, it leaves a vacancy for a CFO at Norwegian. The airline’s board says that the search for his replacement will begin immediately.

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