Stevedore boss Paul Scurrah touted as Virgin CEO candidate
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Stevedore boss Paul Scurrah touted as Virgin CEO candidate

A late contender is said to have emerged in the race for the top job at Virgin Australia, with former logistics boss Paul Scurrah being touted as a candidate to run the country's number-two airline.

Virgin's board is expected to decide as soon as next month on a replacement for long-standing chief executive John Borghetti, who in June last year said he would depart the airline by the end of 2019.

Virgin needs to have a new CEO in place before the end of the year.

Virgin needs to have a new CEO in place before the end of the year. Credit:James Alcock

Mr Scurrah, who was until recently the Australian boss of global ports operator DP World, worked at Qantas in the early 1990s, and later at Ansett, where he rose to the position of general manager of sales and marketing during its administration.

After that he held senior roles at Flight Centre and other travel and tourism operators.

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Mr Scurrah has spent the last seven years in logistics, first at Aurizon and then as chief executive of stevedores DP World Australia, while also serving as a director at Australia Post and the Gold Coast Football Club.

His five-year contract with DP World Australia ended in November, and the 51-year-old is looking for his next role, which is understood to included a tilt at Virgin's top job.

Paul Scurrah's contract at DP World expired in November, and he is looking for his next role.

Paul Scurrah's contract at DP World expired in November, and he is looking for his next role.Credit:Jesse Marlow

A spokesman for Mr Scurrah, who is on holiday in Canada, declined to comment. A Virgin spokeswoman also declined to comment.

Mr Scurrah joins a long list of names that have been floated as potential successors at Virgin during its world-wide search for a new CEO.

Speculation had landed on former Hawaiian Airlines boss Mark Dunkerley, who was described as being the front-runner at one point. Former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour and Westpac executive George Frazis were also touted as contenders.

Virgin's group executive, Rob Sharp, and the boss of its low-cost spin off Tigerair, Merren McArthur, were the two leading internal candidates.

Industry watchers say that whoever takes on the role will have a major task ahead of them in improving Virgin's financial performance while balancing the demands of its major airline investors.

John Borghetti has been CEO since 2010, and will step down by the end of this year.

John Borghetti has been CEO since 2010, and will step down by the end of this year. Credit:Louie Douvis

Virgin has run at a statutory financial loss every year for the past six years, with the losses totalling $1.6 billion, and peaking at last year's loss of $653 million.

The company's share registry is dominated by major investors Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways, and Chinese groups HNA and Nanshan, which each own about 20 per cent of its shares. Richard Branson's Virgin Group owns another 10 per cent.

Privatisation has been on the cards but the board decided against it last year - to the frustration of some minor shareholders hoping to receive a buyout premium for their shares, which over the past year fell from 27¢ to a near all-time low of 19¢.

Reporter for The Age

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