The SAirGroup board of directors has named Mario Corti as its new chairman. Corti, who is currently chief financial officer of the food giant Nestlé, is to replace Eric Honegger at the helm of the troubled group.
In a statement on Friday, SAirGroup said the board had come to the unanimous decision that continuity had to be guaranteed and for that reason it had decided to appoint Corti, who is a member of the board, with immediate effect.
It said Corti had also been named chief executive officer and would assume operational responsibility for the group.
In response to his new appointment, Corti said he plans to "simplify SAirGroup's business structure". He added that he has "concrete plans" for the group and said that he would not be opposed to "radical decision taking".
Corti made his comments on Swiss German-speaking television Friday night.
Shares in SAirGroup rallied in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. At close of trading in Zurich on Friday, shares were up by 7.7 per cent to SFr193.25 ($113.01). Analysts welcomed the appointment as "a good thing".
Honegger is to step down as chairman at the group's shareholders' meeting on April 25, one year ahead of time. Five board members are also standing down at the same time.
The management board announced its mass resignation on March 9, taking collective responsibility for SAirGroup's financial problems. The company is estimated to have lost as much as SFr 2.5 billion in the past year.
Corti, 55, was the only member of the board not to resign and was consequently widely tipped to take over from Honegger. The jurist and economist from canton Ticino held top positions at Switzerland's National Bank and the federal office for foreign trade before moving to Nestlé.
The Vevey-based firm issued a statement on Friday announcing Corti's resignation from his functions at Nestlé with effect from April 5. It expressed regret at Corti's decision, but offered him its support for the future.
"In view of the difficult situation of SAirGroup, Nestlé will, in a spirit of friendly cooperation, do what it can to facilitate the transition," the statement said. "Nestlé also considers this a contribution to helping a renowned Swiss company in a critical situation."
Nestlé said Wolfgang Reichenberger had been named to succeed Corti as chief financial officer.
Corti is assuming the role of SAirGroup chairman at a time of major upheaval for the group, which suffered a series of high-profile departures prior to the board's resignation.
The head of the airline division, Moritz Suter, resigned last week after just 44 days in the job, citing differences with the board. His departure followed that of chief executive, Philippe Bruggisser, who left the company in January.
The group recently called a halt to its expansion strategy following mounting losses among many of its affiliates.
swissinfo with agencies