TAP Air Portugal continues to hit the headlines. Bloomberg is carrying news that the beleaguered Portuguese carrier is being sued by its former Chief Executive Christine Ourmières-Widener, after she was sacked during a live, televised press conference in April 2023.
The ex-CEO’s firing came very publicly amid a severance package scandal after another board member received a half-million-euro pay out ($535,000).
Now, perhaps ironically, Ourmières-Widener is seeking more than ten times that sum from TAP Air. Around €4 million ($4.3 million) are being claimed to cover lost income and bonuses to the natural end of the CEO’s contract in 2026. Add to that nearly €2 million ($2.14 million) for “reputational damages,” and she’s seeking an amount of €5.9 million.
Ourmières-Widener vowed to fight her layoff immediately it happened, refusing to resign, saying that she aimed “to repair my honor, with the global reputation I have in this industry” as well as “in the eyes of my family, my children and friends.”
A month after her sacking, she was still in post, leading the company through a tumultuous privatisation as she was hired to do in 2021.
Former chairman Luís Rodrigues was eventually brought back to take over and Ourmières-Widener finally filed the suit last week in Lisbon, naming TAP Air Portugal and its holding company TAP SGPS as defendants, Simple Flying has reported, citing the Portuguese Ministry of Justice’s Citius portal. Ourmières-Widener is represented by legal firm Vasconcelos, Arruda & Associados.
Comfortable with decision
Meanwhile, Mariana Vieira da Silva, Minister of the Presidency, has defended the government’s decision to fire Ourmières-Widener, saying they were “comfortable” that it was based on an “unequivocal report”.
Simple Flying notes that after the CEO’s dismissal, the carrier went on to record a half-yearly net profit ($24.9 million year-to-date) for the first time since 2019, with a fall in operating costs being read by some as a positive.
On the horizon going into the autumn though, not just Ourmières-Widener’s lawsuit: TAP’s privatisation saga is due to continue. Accountancy firm Ernst & Young are in the throes of valuing the carrier on behalf of the sovereign wealth fund, government conditions are yet to be set, and contenders (still) include Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, and IAG.
Though the sale date was pushed in July back (again) to October, observers say it is unlikely that any deal will go through before well into 2024.