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Avios Group CEO, Drew Crawley, in surprise resignation

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The Chief Executive and Chairman of Avios Group Ltd, Andrew (Drew) Crawley, surprised the loyalty industry yesterday by resigning.

A virtual IAG lifer, Drew initially joined BA in 1992 and – with a short break at one point – rose to become Chief Commercial Officer.  In 2016 he moved across to run IAG Cargo.  In May 2017 he was, literally, moved overnight into the role of Avios Group CEO after the sudden resignation of his predecessor.

(History has repeated itself.  Drew’s predecessor, Gavin Halliday, was another BA lifer who unexpectedly resigned, in his case to run Etihad’s various loyalty interests.)

Assuming that Drew was the highest paid director at Avios Group, he was paid £996,000 last year including pension contributions.

Drew is heading to American Express Global Business Travel, where he will take up the role of Chief Commercial Officer next April.

If you think this seems like a downgrade – CEO to CCO – you need to know that Amex Global Business Travel is actually a private equity-backed venture.  It is jointly owned by American Express (50%) and the Qatar Investment Authority and private equity groups Centares and Macquarie Capital.

The business was valued at $1.8bn back in 2014 when JV was set up.  Drew is likely to have been offered a potential high-seven / low-eight figure equity package to join, albeit one which will only crystalise if the business is sold for what the owners currently believe it can be sold for in 2-3 years.

Andrew Crawley resigns as Avios CEO

At this point in the story, you would expect me to drop in a few warm anecdotes about Drew.  I’m not going to do that, because I never met him.

It has been an odd couple of years.  I was close to Gavin Halliday, and we remain in touch even though he left Avios over two years ago.  I never had as much as an email off Drew in the last 30 months.

Knowing how things works at IAG, Drew is likely to have been asked to leave the premises immediately after submitting his resignation.  It remains to be seen whether IAG decides to promote someone internally – the IAG ‘way’ is to move top talent across companies and divisions to broaden their experience rather than recruit externally – or if they move for someone with specific loyalty expertise.

Whoever it is will have to live up to this forecast for Avios revenue growth which Drew put into IAG’s Capital Markets Day presentation a few weeks ago:

Avios issuance

As you can see, there is a substantial step-change planned in the number of Avios issued from 2020 onwards – up 9% year-on-year vs 7% over the last three years.

Hitting that target will now be someone else’s challenge.

You can find out more in this press release here.

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Comments (42)

  • Paul74 says:

    Thanks Rob. Where does Andrew Crawley come into things?

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    Good news? Bad news? Do you have a feeling neither way Rob? (About the departure, not the direction since no successor has been touted)

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      *either way, even

    • Rob says:

      Bit odd given that very few CCO jobs pay well over £1 million per year and, with Willie retiring, there will be a number of plum IAG roles opening in the next reshuffle, including possibly BA CEO if Cruz takes over IAG.

      • Nick says:

        Is it really that odd though? The BA/Amex contract is up for negotiation in 2020, so you’d imagine getting someone in from the other side is worth a substantial ‘investment’. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had a 50% pay rise for this move – who wouldn’t go for that?!

      • ChrisC says:

        Cruz to take over from Willie?

        Been on the sherry already this morning?

        What a truly laughable suggestion.

        • Rob says:

          … but highly likely to happen. IAG does not recruit from outside, in general.

          • insider says:

            hahahahahah this is NOT highly likely to happen. I’m not sure where you get your info from. In fact it is highly UNLIKELY to happen. You need some better insiders

        • Alex M says:

          Crus moved to BA from Vueling, so why can’t he move from BA to IAG?

          • Rob says:

            Alex set up Click, remember. He is Spain’s version of Stelios.

          • Lady London says:

            I think you’re right Rob. Clear now that IAG rotated Cruz to run (British/very international) BA for a while with the aim of grooming him for the top spot in (Spanish) IAG. So it’s lucky you seem to have got on with him when you’ve met really 🙂

      • Paul Pogba says:

        Cruz at the top is a scary thought. No chance they headhunt someone from a decent airline like Alan Joyce or Rupert Hogg?

        • Karen Brown says:

          The French recruited a Canadian to run Air France this year so anything’s possible.

          • ChrisC says:

            Not quite right.

            Benjamin Smith was recruited to run the AF-KL holding company though he was interim CEO of AF for a short period of time whilst they were between CEOs at the same time.

        • Shoestring says:

          doesn’t scare me – you’d have thought he’s learned one helluva lot from:
          – risks of overdoing the cost-cutting
          – strikes & managing a unionised workforce
          – IT failures
          – modernising the fleet/ seats etc
          – obvs running BA as CEO

        • Speedbird676 says:

          Maybe they could get James Hogan 🤣

  • sloth says:

    interesting that someone who has only done 13 years is called a virtual lifer…

  • marcw says:

    Avios Spain has started to issue way more Avios since october. Pretty much every household is getting monthly 200 free Avios via Endesa, Spain major/main energy supplier. You also get close to 20k Avios if you switch to them.

    • Spaghetti Town says:

      i think most of the avios issued increases will come from Spain and maybe ireland

  • ADS says:

    so 3.5 months of gardening leave – assuming he was walked out the door when he handed in his resignation …

    plenty of time to take some nice holidays … wonder if he will fly BA ?!

  • Abigail says:

    Mega avios devaluation expected….

  • Adam says:

    I don’t want to get too personal on this but I am very glad to hear this news. I loved working at Avios and really believed in what they were trying to achieve and under Gavin their was a clear approach to move the company into a true customer champion. From the beginning of Drew’s reign there was confusion and a lack of clarity with most departments being restructured at least twice in the couple of years he was in charge. Whilst I worked at Avios I honestly believe the team I worked with were the most committed I have ever been a part of in terms of passion in delivering for the customer, I admit we didn’t always get it right but we tried. Drew destroyed that team and Avios has been all the worse for it.

    Hopefully IAG will put someone in who can see the potential of Avios as a global currency instead of just there to serve BA.