Honegger falls from boardroom grace

Honegger stepped down from the NZZ just days after a similar decision at SAir Group

The former Swissair Group chairman, Eric Honegger, is to leave his post on the board of directors of the Zurich-based German language Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) newspaper at next Saturday's annual general meeting.

This content was published on May 2, 2001 minutes

One week after officially leaving his post as chairman of the Swissair Group, formerly known as SAirGroup, the NZZ said in its Wednesday edition that Honegger would not be presenting himself for re-election at Saturday's meeting.

His decision to leave the NZZ board was forced by the controversy surrounding his one-year stint as chairman at Swissair. At last week's Swissair annual general meeting some 5,000 shareholders voted to begin a special audit into why the company, which he led, suffered such massive losses in 2000.

In a letter addressed to the NZZ's shareholders, Honegger said that he wanted to avoid involving the media group in the ongoing debate that surrounds the accounts at Swissair.

Honegger said his departure from the board would head off accusations that the newspaper's editorial independence on the Swissair issue might be compromised by his position. He was voted onto the NZZ's board in April 1999.

So far no successor has been announced.

Honegger's resignation follows controversy over his severance package at Swissair Group. It had been reported that Honegger had asked the company to honour a new contract, signed in December last year, guaranteeing him a salary up until 2005, plus bonuses and free first class travel for both himself and his wife.

Last week, amid much controversy, he agreed to waive the package, and accepted a severance package amounting to one year's salary.

A statement issued by the Zurich-based airline conglomerate said Honegger had accepted the deal and agreed to forego any subsequent claims "in the interest of reaching a rapid and harmonious solution to this issue".

Honegger was first appointed to the board of Swissair as a representative of Canton Zurich. He had been an ex-officio member of the firm's board since 1993, and a member of its executive committee since 1995.

He resigned from the Zurich government in May 1999, and was elected to the SAirGroup board as chairman at the AGM that year, taking up the post in 2000.

The 55-year-old Honegger studied history and journalism at the University of Zurich. He spent eight years as a cantonal parliamentarian in the Radical party, before being elected to the cantonal government in 1987. He was made director of finance for the canton in 1991.

swissinfo with agencies

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