Cathay Pacific chairman resigns weeks after CEO steps down

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. Chairman John Slosar followed the chief executive officer in resigning after the carrier faced scrutiny from China for its employees’ involvement in the anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong.

Slosar, 63, will be replaced by Patrick Healy, a 31-year veteran at parent Swire Group, Cathay said yesterday in a filing. The changes are scheduled to take effect after a Nov. 6 board meeting.

Swire is cleaning house atop its most high-profile asset to avoid falling further afoul of Beijing. The airline, whose business would be crippled if it lost access to China, has become a symbol of the danger companies face in Hong Kong as they seek to steer clear of angering the mainland government.

Chinese authorities last month threatened to ban Cathay flights from flying into mainland airspace and imposed a swathe of demands on Hong Kong’s flag carrier after its employees participated in months-long demonstrations. The company swung quickly into action, with group Chairman Merlin Swire flying into Beijing to meet with Chinese authorities. Then Rupert Hogg abruptly stepped down as Cathay’s CEO to take responsibility for the airline’s troubles. At least seven other employees have also left the carrier amid the turmoil.

Cathay employees took part in a general strike last month that caused a shutdown of Hong Kong’s airport, canceling hundreds of flights from the carrier’s hub. Meanwhile, some Chinese state-owned firms boycotted the airline, raising further concerns that the demonstrations in the city could undermine the company’s efforts to turn around its business.

Cathay and Swire have since cracked down on employees, warning workers multiple times not to participate in or support any illegal protests.

Slosar, also a Swire veteran, ran Cathay as CEO from 2011 before becoming its chairman in 2014. As CEO, he faced challenges including intensifying competition, rising fuel costs and union demands – yet succeeded in keeping profitability and maintaining revenue growth. MDT/AP

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