Virgin boss’ horror year

Paul Scurrah resigned as chief executive of Virgin Australia this morning, following a year of turmoil for Australia’s second airline.

The announcement to the ASX will come through shortly today, amid reports Mr Scurrah had clashed with Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital, which acquired Virgin Australia last month after the debt-ridden airline slumped into voluntary administration in April.

In his first 18 months on the job, the airline has faced job cuts and the loss of Tigerair – and the prediction that international travel won’t be back in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Mr Scurrah telling 2GB in August the losses had been “heartbreaking” in an already “sad year” for the airline and aviation industry.

“The aviation sector is in crisis globally at the moment, and airlines all over the world have had to take measures that no-one ever thought they would have to,” he told ABC Breakfast.

Here’s everything you need to know about the embattled former Virgin CEO.

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Mr Scurrah accepted a $1.3 million base salary upon his hiring at Virgin, significantly lower than his predecessor John Borghetti – immediately saving the airline $650,000.


Prior to being appointed Virgin CEO last February, Mr Scurrah was one of Australia’s most respected “logistics veterans”, having previously been at the helm of port and supply chain operator DP World Australia.

“Paul is a highly regarded business leader in Australia and his appointment is testament to his strong leadership credentials which include more than 20 years’ experience in transport, logistics, travel and aviation,” Virgin Australia group chairman Elizabeth Bryan said in a statement last year.

Working at Qantas in the 1990s, he then moved onto Ansett Australia – followed by a stint at Flight Centre and then a lengthy tenure as CEO of Queensland Rail.

After being named as the new Virgin CEO, Mr Scurrah told the Australian Financial Reviewhe had a couple of tricks up his sleeve, and didn’t like to “just lay down and go with the flow”.

“What it will be will be. I have a few ideas. I intend to have a good time here, I intend to compete, but to do that with a very firm focus on the bottom line and the interest of our shareholders,” he said.

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Mr Scurrah’s wife, Nicole, is herself a high profile political operative and economist.

The chief of staff to former Queensland Labor Premier Anna Bligh, Ms Scurrah went on to become a consulting adviser at PwC, and was brought in last July to help steer Treasurer Jackie Trad’s Service Priority Review Office, tasked with slashing the Palaszczuk Government’s consultants and contractor spend.

Ms Scurrah was also a key member of Ms Bligh’s election strategy team, and worked as a senior economics adviser after Ms Bligh became deputy premier in 2005.

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Rumours of Mr Scurrah being replaced by Tennis Australia president and former Jetstar boss Jayne Hrdlicka have already emerged, after The Courier Mailrevealed she was able to skip hotel quarantine after arriving in Brisbane – where Virgin Australia is headquartered – last week.

The publication said US-born Ms Hrdlicka was allowed to quarantine at a luxury Brisbane residence after being granted an exemption from Queensland Health as her husband is undergoing chemotherapy.

The multi-millionaire has been a key figure with Bain Capital and was reportedly part of the team that helped secure the firm’s purchase of Virgin Australia.

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James Weaver

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