The appointment of Gustav Baldauf as the first chief operating officer (COO) of Air India (AI) has kicked-up a storm in the top management of the national carrier even before he officially takes charge.
According to the terms of appointment cleared by the AI (NACIL) Board for the new COO, the eligible candidate should have been in the age group of 45-50. Baldauf is 54.
The age condition was explicitly stated and recorded in the minutes of the board meeting held on August 20, 2009 — accessed by Hindustan Times.
In response to a questionnaire from HT, AI did not deny the eligibility criterion. “This was only the preferred age group. In a global selection process, there cannot be an age bar as this is not legally permitted abroad,” it said.
The board was informed of the change and it confirmed the appointment, AI said. However, three board members HT spoke said the board was kept in dark.
“To say that the board was kept informed about the change is an attempt to mislead by those who quietly revised the conditions to favour a candidate. If indeed the board members were informed, where is the written communication, ” the three said.
AI did not reply as to why, when and with whose approval were the requirements changed.
Sources said Baldauf’s name did not even figure in the original shortlist of candidates for the COO’s post. AI denied this.
The advertisement brought out by AI inviting applications for the post had stated that preference would be given to those who had turned around performance of a large organisation. Baldauf has no such “turnaround” to his credit.
“When and where did Baldauf master the art of turning around a company riddled with insurmountable problems?” wrote Jitender Bhargava, former executive director, AI, in a column in HT last week.
“Baldauf was was selected by a committee, which included a group of leading industrialists,” AI said.