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No Sacrifice Too Big to Safeguard Jet Airways, Naresh Goyal Says After Exit, Pens Emotional Letter to Staff

Naresh Goyal remaining on the board and being the controlling shareholder had long been a point of contention with Jet's lenders.

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Updated:March 26, 2019, 7:26 AM IST
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No Sacrifice Too Big to Safeguard Jet Airways, Naresh Goyal Says After Exit, Pens Emotional Letter to Staff
File photo of Naresh Goyal.
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New Delhi: Naresh Goyal, who is quitting as chairman of Jet Airways under a debt resolution plan, on Monday said no sacrifice is too big for him to safeguard the interest of the airline and the families of its 22,000 employees.

Goyal is also the founder of the full-service airline, which has been operating for more than 25 years. "For the sake of my family of 22,000 employees and their respective families, I have today taken the step of stepping down from the board of Jet Airways," he said in a statement issued by the airline.

He became chairman of the company in April 1992. "My family is behind me and with me in this decision and I hope you will support my decision too. I will miss you one and all," Goyal said.

He, along with his wife Anita Goyal and Etihad Airways PJSC's nominee director Kevin Knight, will step down from the board of the ailing airline, which will also receive an immediate funding of Rs 1,500 crore under a resolution plan piloted by its lenders.

Goyal remaining on the board and being the controlling shareholder had long been a point of contention with Jet's lenders.

In an emotionally-charged letter to the 22,000-strong employees, Goyal said the decision to step down was not the end of the journey but the start of a brand new chapter. He also said the approval of the debt-recast plan will put the carrier on a "sounder and sustainable" financial footing.

"Our airline stands poised to turn the page, ready to fly out of the turbulence and soar into a bright new future," Goyal, who began his aviation journey as a travel agent, said in the letter.

"We've not come to this decision lightly but this is not the end of the journey, rather it is the start of a brand new chapter," Goyal exuded confidence. He said he has seen the airline growing from a fleet of just four aircraft flying to 12 routes in the first year, to a peak fleet of 124 flying to over 550 destinations.

Goyal was India's 16th richest person according to Forbes magazine in 2005. He currently does not feature in the list.

The son of a jewellery merchant in India's Punjab, Goyal dabbled as a public relations manager for Iraqi Airways and also worked as a regional manager for Philippine Airlines before launching Jet Airways.

"With Goyal stepping down, the company can engineer a comeback and revive the airlines," Devesh Agarwal, editor of the Bangalore Aviation website, said.

"Ultimately, banks will own the airline now and need to find the right leadership immediately and inject funds to contain the crisis," Agarwal added.

SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar said Goyal will be eligible to bid for takeover of one of the oldest private carrier when the lenders auction it next month.

State Bank of India, which is the leader of the group of lenders, will next month invite Expression of Interest from buyers willing to takeover the airline and will finalise the investor by May end, he said.

Shares of the airline zoomed 12.69 per cent to close at Rs 254.50 on the BSE.
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