A2 Milk’s Qantas High-Flyer

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

High-flying Qantas executive Jayne Hrdlicka has jumped from a company whose shares are up 58% so far this year to the incoming CEO of the a2 Milk Company who shares are up 250% so far in 2017.

Her shock move was revealed in statements yesterday morning from Qantas and a2 Milk and comes less than a month after Ms Hrdlicka moved from chief executive of Jetstar to heading up the airline’s booming loyalty business.

She will replace a2’s current CEO, Geoffrey Babidge, and is expected to start at the beginning of the 2019 financial year next July. Mr Babidge says he will remain on hand to the end of 2018 to help his replacement settle in.

In the past five years A2Milk shares have seen incredible growth – they are up more than 1,170% according to ASX data. And in the five years Ms Hrdlicka was at Qantas, its performance was none too shabby either – up 260%.

A2M shares jumped 3.4% to $7.31, despite a small fall in the wider market, while Qantas shares were off 2.8% at $5.21 with much of that fall linked to the movement in oil prices and the Aussie dollar.

The New A2Milk CEO clearly likes being involved in a high performance company.

“I am delighted to be joining the very talented and accomplished team at The a2 Milk Company as their new CEO,” Ms Hrdlicka said in yesterday’s statement.

"This is a strong, principled company with significant opportunity ahead and impressive momentum in each of its core markets."

Ms Hrdlicka joined Qantas in 2010 as head of strategy and technology and became CEO of the Jetstar Group in 2012 and spent five years leading the budget airline during a period of rapid expansion into Asia, particularly Japan.

In August Qantas announced an executive reshuffle in which Ms Hrdlicka was moved to the loyalty business, with Qantas International boss Gareth Evans taking the reins at Jetstar.

The pair only started their new roles last month and it is understood Ms Hrdlicka told chief executive Alan Joyce she was resigning late on Tuesday. She will leave Qantas in March.

She was previously a non-executive director of Woolworths and had reportedly put up her hand for the CEO position there – a role Brad Banducci eventually claimed.

Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce said Ms Hrdlicka had made a “tremendous contribution to the Qantas Group, and particularly to Jetstar”.

"She leaves with our best wishes for her next challenge,” he said.

Qantas said a replacement to lead its loyalty business would be made next year.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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