A final way out of the crisis for Calin Rovinescu

Calin Rovinescu, CEO of Air Canada, has gone through crises during the years when he was intimately involved in the development and radical transformation of the air carrier. At 65, the business lawyer who skilfully steered his business to face the worst crisis in its history has decided not to wait until the end of the pandemic to bow out and will step down early in the year. next year.

Posted on October 17, 2020 at 6:30 a.m.

Jean-Philippe Decarie
Jean-Philippe Decarie

The COVID-19 pandemic will therefore be the last crisis that Calin Rovinescu will have had to manage since he joined Air Canada for the first time as an advisor on its privatization in 1988-1989, then in 1999 when ‘he was called in to block hostile conglomerate Onex’s takeover bid for Air Canada

The lawyer, specialized in business law, managing partner of the firm Stikeman Elliott, succeeded in defeating this transaction and joined the management of the air carrier in 2000 as president of the subsidiaries Jazz and Aeroplan.


When Calin Rovinescu took over as Air Canada manager on April 1, 2009, the carrier’s stock was trading at 78 cents. About ten years later, last January, the stock’s value peaked at $ 52.

In 2002, Air Canada headed straight for bankruptcy and was appointed head of restructuring and strategy, which allowed the company to emerge painfully from this new crisis. In 2004, the business lawyer left the company to found Genuity Capital, a private investment bank.

Five years later, Air Canada, completely weakened by the global recession of 2008, again called on Calin Rovinescu as CEO, this time with the gigantic mandate to set up this company which seemed to be heading again towards the abyss.

In an interview, Calin Rovinescu told me that he had given himself four main objectives when he accepted this challenge: it was necessary to put the customer at the center of all the concerns of the company, to reduce his expenses by 500 million. recurring, establish itself on the international market and adopt a much more entrepreneurial culture.

Clearly, Calin Rovinescu exceeded his goals, and a good way to measure it is to follow the stock market behavior of the company during his reign.

When he took charge of Air Canada, the 1is April 2009, the carrier’s stock was trading at 78 cents. A decade later, last January, the stock’s value peaked at $ 52. Air Canada was the TSX’s best-performing stock of the decade with a total appreciation of 3575%!

Obviously, the CEO has benefited greatly from this spectacular performance since he was able to achieve gains of 31 million in 2017 and 52 million in 2019, by converting the options he held.

A crisis that hurts

Throughout the years he was associated with Air Canada, the outgoing CEO had to overcome his fair share of obstacles: the hostile takeover bid for Onex, the acquisition of Canadian Airlines, the collapse of the air transport after September 11, 2001, the bankruptcy of 2003, the post-recession of 2008… But the coronavirus crisis remains the worst crisis it will have faced.

If Air Canada posted record revenues of $ 19.1 billion last year and a record operating profit of $ 3.6 billion, we can only expect a fraction of those results this year as the company posted a 90% drop in revenue in its second quarter.

Financial analysts also all underline the vigor with which Calin Rovinescu responded to the crisis by succeeding in particular in freeing up 6 billion in liquidity to deal with the emergency situation.

The company was still forced to slash its workforce by laying off half of its 38,000 employees, which is a real disaster.

Finally, we cannot take stock of Calin Rovinescu’s time at the head of Air Canada without underlining the talents of negotiator and strategist he has shown over the years.

He has always remained a business lawyer, as the downgraded transaction he has just concluded with Transat AT reminded us.

The pre-pandemic offer according to which Air Canada was to pay 720 million for Transat has been revised to 190 million, and no major Transat shareholder has publicly opposed it to date.

Calin Rovinescu also maneuvered skillfully when acquiring Aeroplan last year. After announcing in 2017 that Air Canada – Aeroplan’s main partner – was withdrawing from this loyalty program, the carrier took advantage of the fall in the share value of the parent company of Aeroplan to make an offer to the discount and redeem the program.

Calin Rovinescu leaves Air Canada while the company is still going through extremely difficult times, but he can leave with the feeling of duty accomplished, apart from the sad episode of the end of the maintenance work of the Air Canada fleet by Montreal-based Aveos, which closed the latter in 2012.

In terms of successes, we must highlight the order for 45 C Series aircraft from Bombardier, which was announced in 2016 when Bombardier needed firm commitments. Calin Rovinescu has shown more sensitivity than his predecessor, Robert Milton, who placed an order for 45 regional jets from the Brazilian Embraer in 2004. It will now be the turn of his successor, Michael Rousseau, chief financial officer of ‘Air Canada, to assume from February 2021 and for a long time the crisis management.

Calin Rovinescu in a few dates

Business Lawyer, Stikeman Elliott
General Vice-President, Growth and Strategy and Chief Restructuring Officer, Air Canada
Founding President, Genuity Capital
President and CEO, Air Canada

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