Tony Fernandes back as AirAsia CEO: 'Being let down by a partner…hurt a lot'

AirAsia has reinstated Tony Fernandes (pictured left) and Kamarudin bin Meranun (pictured right) to their executive positions of CEO and executive chairman respectively. Fernandes and Kamarudin were removed from their positions in February this year after AirAsia and AirAsia X were alleged to have accepted a bribe of about US$50 million from Airbus as sponsorship for a sports team.

In a LinkedIn post, Fernandes said: "Being let down by a partner that you felt was family hurt a lot. Sponsorship was always about building a great brand and no one can deny AirAsia has built a great brand."

With the reinstatement, AirAsia Group president (airlines) Tharumalingam a/l Kanagalingam will no longer helm the role of acting CEO of the group. Following an independent review undertaken by BDO Governance Advisory, BDO has found that the sponsorship of the sports team was "approved in compliance with its procedures".

The review found that the sponsorship the sports team by Airbus, was disclosed to and supported by the board of directors at AirAsia at the relevant time. "The sponsorship showed demonstrable benefits to the AirAsia Group and was not linked to any purchase decisions by AirAsia," BDO said, according to a Bursa filing.

Also, both Fernandes and Kamarudin also properly disclosed their interests to the board of directors and abstained from discussions and/or decisions relating to the said sponsorships, the review added. The company also has a "robust aircraft procurement process". "The process was complied with and AirAsia's aircraft acquisition was justifiable and at prices favourable to AirAsia," the review said.

In February, UK's Royal Courts of Justice said Airbus failed to prevent individuals associated with the company from bribing others concerned with the purchase of aircraft by AirAsia and AirAsia X between July 2011 and June 2015. The individuals were namely directors and/or employees of AirAsia airlines where the alleged bribery was intended to obtain or retain business or advantage in the conduct of business for Airbus.

Both Fernandes and Kamarudin also previously clarified that Caterham F1, the company alleged to have been sponsored improperly by Airbus, was at the relevant time a Formula 1 Racing team that had gone round the globe promoting amongst others AirAsia, AirAsia X, GE and Airbus. Both added that throughout the period they were shareholders in Caterham, the company "made no profits" and was eventually disposed for £1 in 2014. "From start to finish, this was a branding exercise and not a venture to make profits," Fernandes and Kamarudin said previously.