AOM- Air Liberté-Air Littoral : Marc Rochet appointed to dismantle the group
Appointed at the head of the direction of the three companies, the former manager of Air Liberté would only have a contract for less than a year to sell out by parts. The end of a dream.
This was to expect. It's now done. Yesterday, on Wednesday, February 14th, in the afternoon, Marc Rochet was appointed at the head of the direction of AOM-Air Liberté-Air Littoral in order to replace Paul Reutlinger who resigned whereas Alexandre Couvelaire, president of the supervisory board of the three French companies resigned and was replaced by René Lapautre, former CEO of UTA. If some people still hoped the creation of a new second French air group, the message delivered on Wednesday was clear : the project was given up. SAirGroup, which had already put a brake on it at the end of January 2001, is going to pull out of the project and to sell out a part of the group.The dream of a second French air groupThe resignation of Alexandre Couvelaire is very significant. He was the architect of the project of the second air group. AOM 's CEO, then president of the supervisory board, of AOM-Air Liberté and Air Littoral, he was planning to realize a great idea : build up a group that could be a real private competitor to face the national company Air France.Alexandre Couvelaire had succeeded to share this dream with his old friend Ernest-Antoine Seillière. The director of the Medef, through Taitbout Antibes BV, subsidiary of Marine-Wendel had become in May 2000 co-shareholder of a new group set up by SAirGroup. The Swiss holding was asserting that 'the complementarities of niches, networks, and the fleets of AOM, Air Liberté and Air Littoral should favour the emergence of the second French air transport company'.This dream failed because of the huge deficits registered by the three French companies. SAirGroup has decided at the end of January. Its CEO was removed. The reactions followed in chain. The development plans of the French companies were stopped. Air Littoral was separated off of the two other companies AOM and Air Liberté. At the same time, the director of the three companies, Paul Reutlinger has resigned. The collapse.What is going to happen for the companies and its employees?The new team who is going to take the control isn't hired to relaunch the group but to try to sell at best each of the three entities and to limit the financial losses of what is revealing to be an industrial disaster. From a close source, Marc Rochet's term of office should be very short. The former manager of AOM and then of Air Liberté (he was dismissed in May 2000 at the time of the buyout) would have to negotiate the complete withdrawal of the Swiss group from the French air group on a delay of 6 months up to a year. The 7 000 employees concerned on the overall of the French territory get even more worried.There are many calculations. Is Air France going to take the control of Air Littoral? Those questions particularly concern the international airport of Nice Côte d'Azur. The company grew considerably on the platform of Nice. With the support of the Chamber of Commerce of Nice Côte d'Azur, it created a hub of Southern Europe that works very well (one million passengers in 2000).Is it going to grow the same way with Air France which has focused its European strategy in Lyon? What is going to happen for the employees as rumours of massive lay-offs are spreading? (1 800 employees between Nice and Montpellier for Air Littoral only)? What is going to happen for the other two companies, AOM and Air Liberté? Are they going to be taken over for their valuable slots in Orly? The collapse of the second French air group might have a great impact.