Who is LIAT Majority Shareholder_ Antigua or Barbados

Submitted as a comment to Adrian Loveridge Column – Keep Working it blog by Artax.

It seems as though talks between the governments of Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda relative to the sale Barbados’ shares in LIAT have recommenced.

https://barbadostoday.bb/2019/12/13/antiguan-pm-reports-movement-in-liat-share-talks/

After all the “back and forth,” … and the government of Antigua securing a US$15.8M loan from the Venezuela ALBA Bank to invest in LIAT we haven’t heard anything from Tourism Minister Kerry Symmonds as it relates to this issue or what is government’s short-term or long-term position on the airline.

I’m wondering why, as the majority shareholder, the government of Barbados is allowing Antigua’s PM Gaston Browne to take the lead on issues relating to the restructuring and recapitalization of LIAT?

And, so far, Chairman of the shareholder governments, SVG’s PM Ralph Gonsalves, has remained extremely silent on these developments…… and we haven’t heard anything from the other shareholders as well.

Mia Mottley should realize she or any member of her administration does not own the 49.4 shareholdings in LIAT … they are owned by the Barbadian tax payers. As such, she is obligated to inform Barbadians about any new developments relating to the airline.

112 comments

  • After GB’s statement about change at LIAT, it is reasonable to assume that JH was asked to resign. 16 years of doing sweet feck all while drawing a Chairman’s salary. making multi-million dollar decisions and unable to lead the airline ANYWHERE. His background is diplomatic and in Tourism – WTF would he know about a fast-moving airline like LIAT??

    Chairman and Board need to have some background in aviation or airlines, the wider the better. The CEO needs to have the qualifications, knowledge and experience to look at LIAT and suggest a new “model” for the airline – at the very least come up with the changes that would turn LIAT around. People with global experience have seen things done in different ways – introducing some of them to LIAT may be a life-saver.

    Did I mention MOVE the current shareholder Chairman. He is the biggest threat to LIAT’s survival. Comrade Bully Fat Boy Ralph used LIAT like a personal political toy last year when he had a LIAT ATR land on his unfinished, uncertified, uninsured, incomplete runway at Argyle – with a huge hole two-thirds down the runway where the culverts were still being worked on. I can pretty much guarantee that if this stunt had gone wrong, there would have been ZERO insurance, and LIAT would have folded soon after.

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  • I am hoping GB asked him to resign/retire. After 16 years of drawing a fat salary from LIAT for basically doing sweet FA, my guess is he was due for the exit.

    We will see how serious GB is about CHANGE if he asks the Board members to leave, too. There are MANY qualified and experienced regionals who can take their place, understand the problems completely, and make LIAT far better.

    But the most important change is the CEO. A book-keeper with zero experience in airlines or aviation (who was given the CFO job as a favour by ex-Chairman Jean Holder) does not have the range of knowledge and experience to turn LIAT around and install a different “model”.

    I know of a perfect candidate – MBA, former banker, has a pilot licence, practical experience with aircraft from owning and selling bizjets up through running airlines as COO and CEO in Europe and Canada, once worked for Boeing and deHavilland (Dash-8 manufacturer), has a bit of Caribbean time – but nobody has listened to me so far, I don’t suppose anybody will listen to me now.

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  • David BU

    Yes, I agree it was an interesting story. However, I hope you realized the article was published in the “The Daily Observer” on June 14, 2011.

    Interestingly, at that time, Dr. Jean Holder “indicated his willingness to remain in place until the government of Barbados, which appointed him as a director, finds a new replacement and the Board has the opportunity to elect a new Chairman.”

    However, it was reported today that Dr. Holder “informed shareholders at LIAT’s Annual General Meeting held in Antigua on Monday, December 16, 2019, he would not be available for nomination as a Director of LIAT’s Board for the next term.”

    I agree with “bimjim” that the Directors appointed by the shareholder governments should have knowledge and experience in aviation and the airline industry (in areas such as airline revenue systems, airline operations and management, human resources).

    But, before becoming overly critical of Dr. Holder, he did not appoint himself as Chairman. We must first bear in mind the government of Barbados appoints four (4) individuals as Directors, while Antigua appoints three (3) and SVG = one (1).

    Dr. Holder was one of 4 individuals APPOINTED as Directors BY the government of Barbados and he was SELECTED as Chairman……. NOT by the shareholder governments…… but by the OTHER Directors appointed by the other shareholder governments.

    We therefore have to hold the entire Board responsible for all decisions

    As such, I don’t believe Gaston Browne had any influence on Dr. Holder’s decision.

    Additionally, since LIAT’s directors are appointed by the shareholder governments, even if Browne is “serious about CHANGE,” the only Board members he can “ask to leave,” are the 3 individuals appointed by the government of Antigua.

    There has to be a general consensus among the heads of the shareholder governments on the way forward relative to removal and appointment of LIAT Directors.

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  • @Artax

    What is your opinion why Holder was not replaced although he offered to give way?

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  • David BU

    I believe politics was at play then……… and is still being played out now.

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  • Whether we want to acknowledge it in public or not, there are things that go on behind the scenes that are not done the way they should be done. That is normal Caribbean politics. ECCAA is supposed to be a stand-alone institution, arms-length from politics and government, but right now is being controlled by St. Vincent’s Fat Boy Gonsalves – and the ECCAA is physically located in Antigua. It’s a matter of two Marxist Comrades using the good old days to change their world.

    For instance, the Appointment of Holder to the Board and his elevation to Chairman would not have occurred without he himself seeking the position with Prime Ministers or Ministers whose backsides he had already kissed many times.

    Same with the Directors – they are not chosen at random from the population, they have money, they are active in politics, and they express their desires to politicians who they know can get them there. They need not know diddly squat about aviation, airlines or even what travel is… it is a political appointment, pure and simple. No qualifications or experience needed.

    When I was at LIAT we got a new CEO, a former Board member, who – we were told – was asked to “go and see what you can do with it”. Advertisements? Interviews? Evaluations? Qualifications? Naaaaah, we good man, just go and try a ting, see whah go happen dey.

    Dr. Holder spent 16 years as Chairman… I wonder how many years Fat Boy Gonsalves has been shareholder Chairman? Are these top positions not supposed to rotate in the interests of avoiding abuses?

    I provided both Queen Mia and GB with about 10 names of regionals who have worked in the industry, are available, and are willing and able to serve… but nobody is listening. I also provided them with the name of the CEO I suggest would be a great fit. He applied for the CEO position when David Evans was hired, and was interviewed over Skype by LIAT. When he spoke the word “change” he said the faces fell, the eyeballs rolled up in the heads, and the interview did not last much longer.

    And let me tell you right now, If Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua, is headed for a majority ownership, you had BETTER BELIEVE that if he calls Jean Holder and tells him he is out, Bajan Holder will shake like a cold rat and resign, if only because he no longer has the political protection he has enjoyed for a long 16 years. Not in LIAT, anyway.

    On the shareholding, I have seen the changes being discussed from just over 50% to over 70% staying with Antigua, depending on whether they ever get their acts together and figure it out. And it has always been that the majority shareholder of LIAT usually gets their way.

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  • bimjim

    IT IS EXTREMELY REFRESHING TO READ SOMETHING ON BU THAT IS WRITTEN BY SOME ONE WHO APPARENTLY KNOWS WHAT HE IS SPEAKING ABOUT, AND HAS SOME UNDERSTANDING OF THE ISSUES AND SOME INTELLECT.

    THESE THINGS ARE USUALLY LACKING ON BU………..WHERE GENERALLY THERE IS AN ABUNDANCE OF CHATTER MAINLY

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  • You do not have to have had experience in airlines or chocolates to be a good CEO. Good managers move across industries and sectors. What they all have in common is competence. COMPETENCE, COMOET NCE, COMPETENCE.

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  • — Hal Austin…

    I beg to differ, and maybe can agree to disagree.

    Former LIAT CEO David Evans (fired) was a manager, yes, but deep in the bowels of British Airways Cargo in the UK, where he hid from daylight his whole career. The last few years of his career he was given plum postings to the London Docks airport where he could relax in his pre-retirement time.

    I believe David Evans MUST have promised not to make any changes, otherwise he would NOT have got the job. As it turns out, he spent his entire employment touring all of LIAT’s destinations (at LIAT’s expense) and was then FIRED for his indiscretion – coming up with a plan to close LIAT in Antigua and start a new airline in Barbados. Believe it or not, “Do-Nothing” Holder and the Board ACCEPTED and APPROVED the proposal, but when it hit the desks of the Prime Ministers all Hell broke loose.

    An airline employs about half unlicensed people and half licensad people. By licensed I mean Pilots, engineers, mechanics and other trades which REQUIRE extensive training and certification just to do their jobs. I cannot speak of the rest, but pilots are re-certified every year, and they face checks from the company every six months – base checks, line checks, emergency procedures, instrument rating, etc.

    Equipment is expensive – apart from the US$10 million hangars, to buy a suitable aircraft is between US$3 million and US$70 million, to lease something like a Twin Otter is US$35,000 to US$45,000 a month. To lease a new ATR you are over US$200,000 per month.

    Yes, an airline is a business. But it would be a great mistake to make the typically American assumption that everything can be jammed into one box and treated the same. It is clear that the LIAT shareholders have made that mistake for more than 40 years, and we really should know better by now.

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  • @BimJim

    We may agree to disagree. Just one question: why do you think we have business schools, and what do they teach at them? A good CEO needs a chief technical officer and a finance director and a marketing director and and and. all on his/her executive team.
    The CEO is the conductor of the ensemble, the executive team are the soloists and principal instrumentalists. Together they create harmony. The CEO does not have to play the piano, and violin, and bassoon etc. S/he employs the best players available.

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  • In my opinion we have business schools for exactly the same reason as we have secondary schools – to teach people the the BASICS. After a business school they specialise.

    A CEO is a jack-of-all-trades, yes, and must be a leader. The very fact that he deals with a wide range of specialties means he has to have an understanding off all of them. And no greater understanding can be earned than by actually getting into the dirt and doing it. Aviation is inherently dangerous, and it is a 24/7 business. Not many people are willing to put in that kind of time to ensure it is done right.

    To turn an airline like LIAT around, you need someone with global experie3nce, the more the better. They will have seen the “models” elsewhere that work – and more importantly, the “models” that do NOT work. And they can competently point LIAT in a new direction. Where LIAT is concerned, they will also need someone with better-than-average financial understanding.

    The guy I would prefer to see turn LIAT around is originally from Eastern Europe, was a merchant banker, has an MBA and emigrated to Canada. In Europe he had bizjet dealerships, operated air charter companies, and ran airlines. In Canada he worked for Boeing and deHavilland, and ran a small airline in the northwest territories for the last few years. He is also a licensed pilot and has Caribbean time – he helped start Nature Island Express in Dominica.

    I am utterly sick of this “good enough for government work” approach by politicians towards LIAT – and indeed towards all aviation in the Caribbean. We have lost MANY entrepreneurial small airlines through to many barriers and obstacles, and high costs.

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  • Well, Chairman Jean “Do-Nothing” Holder has “retired” (probably chased out of the studio), now we will see if Gaston Browne is serious about CHANGING LIAT. Queen Mia had the opportunity – for almost two years now, and did sweet feck-all – and she had accurate guidance. Now the BCAD is being treated like a flag of convenience by operators who are registered in Barbados but hardly ever touch the soil. Which means that the incompetent and unmanned BCAD have NO oversight over two airlines they are supposed to be responsible for.

    Barbados is becoming something of a joke in the EC as far as aviation is concerned… they now also have a Boeing 747-400 (the biggest one) on the registry and the BCAD are unable to indentify any part of it in technical terms. The pilot can tell the BCAD Inspector (if there is one) that the mechanic is putting too much propwash in the slipstream, and the Inspector would not know what he was talking about.

    Onwards and upwards, to infinity and beyond… but first yuh does hadda guh dungtung Bridgetown on a weekday, 9am to 3pm, an apply fuh uh 4th level permit fuh operate wan metal hairplane wid low-level metal wings an jet engine bout hey.

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