One of Australia’s most successful management exports, cricket-addict Rod Eddington, will retire as chief executive of British Airways in September and return to Australia to join the international professional directors’ club.

Having left Ansett in the nick of time after News Corp lobbed its hospital pass at Air New Zealand in 2000, Eddington is widely credited with turning the British national carrier around and will probably be remembered as one of the finest aviation executives of the modern era. Rupert Murdoch publicly describes him as the “world’s best”, although the victims of Ansett and 13,000 British Airways’ staff who lost their jobs over the past five years might not agree.

Interestingly, Rio Tinto has announced overnight that Eddington will join their board as a non-executive director after he bows out from BA – strengthening the Australian connection for the London-based mining giant, as it weighs up mounting a counter-offer for BHP-Billiton. Check out Rio’s ASX announcement here.

Eddington looks like he’ll be playing a similar role to former Ford CEO Jac Nasser, who sits on the board of companies such as Brambles and Rupert’s BSkyB – outfits with an Australian connection but an international flavour.

Eddington’s board portfolio will now include New York-based News Corp, London-based Rio Tinto and Hong Kong-based Swire Group. Having successfully run Cathay Pacific for Swire from 1992 to 1997 and Ansett for News Corp from 1997 to 2000, it’s clear that Eddington’s former employers like to keep him inside the tent after he moves on.

As the most eminent new entrant to the Australian directors’ club, the next question for Eddington is which company he will chair. Crikey would love to see Rupert Murdoch embrace 21st good governance and stand aside for an independent non-executive chairman. He could do worse than Rod Eddington.

Eddington will be replaced at BA by Aer Lingus CEO Willie Walsh as you can see from this report in The Scotsman.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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