Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos steps down, Geir Karlsen appointed interim CEO

posted on 11th July 2019 by Justin Burns
Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos steps down, Geir Karlsen appointed interim CEO

After 17 years as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Norwegian – Bjørn Kjos – will leave the position and continue in a new role as an advisor to the chairman from 11 July.

Until Norwegian appoints a new CEO, chief financial officer (CFO) Geir Karlsen will act as interim CEO, while chairman Niels Smedegaard will take on a more active role in the management.

“I am very pleased Bjørn will remain at the company as an advisor to the Board and the Chair. As Norwegian moves from growth to profitability, it will be an advantage for the company to benefit from Bjørn’s extensive network, in-depth knowledge of and experience with global aviation. We have already started the process of recruiting a permanent new CEO,” said Smedegaard, chairman of the board of directors at Norwegian.

“I am confident that the Board of Directors will find the best qualified successor to lead the next chapters of the Norwegian story together with the top management team. Leaving the exciting future tasks to a new CEO and taking on a new challenge as an advisor, is a set-up I am very happy with. I look forward to spending more time working on specific strategic projects that are crucial to the future success of Norwegian,” said 72-year-old Kjos.

Kjos is one of the founders of Norwegian. During his tenure as CEO, the company has developed from a small domestic operation with 130 employees and four aircraft to a global carrier with more than 11,000 employees and 162 aircraft.

“Bjørn has played an unprecedented role in Norwegian’s success. His vision of offering affordable fares for all, combined with his enthusiasm and innovating spirit, has revolutionized the way people travel for pleasure and for business, not least between the continents. Bjørn is definitely one of the most influential European entrepreneurs of our time,” Smedegaard said.

Following a demanding period of financial and operational challenges, fueled by significant investments, Norwegian changed its strategy from growth to profitability in 2018. Going forward, the company will harvest from its rapid global growth and investments.

The carrier said running a profitable business and boosting company value to the benefit of shareholders, customers and employees will be key for the CEO going forward.

“We have to ensure that Norwegian is well prepared and positioned to handle volatile markets and unexpected events. It is crucial that we continue to deliver on our cost reduction initiatives and that we constantly ensure that we have a route portfolio that yields profit.

“It is also important that the new CEO develops an organization that embraces continued improvement and operational excellence,” Smedegaard added.