The legacy of James Hogan

Whenever any chief executive leaves the top job, he unwittingly sets off of a chain of unstoppable events; rumours, innuendos, gossip, conspiracy theories, expert opinions and business obituaries. The vultures come out to say: “I told you so,” and friends respond: “We told you so.” Gulf Air's departing boss eventually proved his critics wrong.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  July 16, 2006

|~|Anil-Bhoyrul-body.jpg|~|Anil Bhoyrul, Editor|~|Whenever any chief executive leaves the top job, he unwittingly sets off of a chain of unstoppable events; rumours, innuendos, gossip, conspiracy theories, expert opinions and business obituaries. The vultures come out to say: “I told you so,” and friends respond: “We told you so.” James Hogan, the outgoing chief executive of Gulf Air, is no different. The company’s announcement last week that he is leaving has posed more questions than answers. Why did he sign a new three-year contract just a few months back? Isn’t it more than a coincidence that arch-rival Etihad is looking for a new chief executive? Well, I’m glad to say that this week we are able to answer some of those questions. As Hogan tells us, in his only interview since quitting, he never did sign a new three-year contract. That story about him, like many others, were just made up (by his many critics). And no, he isn’t going to Etihad. At least not yet – he doesn’t appear to have any job to go to. It still isn’t totally clear why he left – having spoken to him at length this week, I get the impression no new contract was put on the table, and he didn’t exactly go clamouring for one. “My job is done,” he told me. It is – and a pretty good job at that. Whatever you may think of Hogan – the business community appears to adore and abhore him in equal measures, you can’t argue with the results. In 2002, Gulf Air was a debt-ridden loss-making disaster, with staff morale non-existent. Within two years, he had made a profit. The airline's debt was reduced to below the US$400 million mark, and almost everything he had promised in his three year “Project Falcon” initiative had been delivered. Of course, the road ahead is by no means smooth. His successor will have to make sure the Oman government doesn’t withdraw its shareholding in Gulf Air, which would be devastating. The next boss of the company is also likely to be saddled with higher debt, given the US$900 million order for new aircraft. But Hogan’s plans worked before, and those he leaves for the successor should work again. His greatest legacy is that he made his staff proud to work for Gulf Air.||**||

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