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Press hails Crossair boss but welcomes his departure

Former Crossair boss, Moritz Suter, was acclaimed by friends and enemies alike Keystone

The emotional resignation of Moritz Suter as chairman of Crossair has been generally welcomed by the Swiss press.

This content was published on December 7, 2001 - 09:51

The majority view is that, emotions aside, the stepping down of the old guard is in the best interests of a new Swiss airline being built around Crossair and the collapsed Swissair.

Some newspapers clearly take Suter's side. Others point out his weaknesses. However, there is general acclaim for his services over 27 years to the company he founded from scratch to become Europe's largest regional airline.

Summing up the mood of the shareholders meeting in Basel, the mass-circulation tabloid "Blick" comments that Suter was feted like a hero.

"Moritz Suter has resigned - with dignity... He led the proceedings at his last shareholders meeting over six hours. It turned into a Suter gala event. It was a farewell with tears."

Power struggle

The Blick is among several papers to highlight the power struggle that went on before the meeting between Basel and Zurich, or more precisely between Suter and Nestlé chairman, Rainer Gut, who is head of the steering committee which nominated the new airline's board under former KLM head Pieter Bouw.

The "Basler Zeitung" said everything went according to plan. "It was nothing more than a power struggle: the owners of 70 per cent of the share capital said they did not want Suter".

"His face simply didn't fit for the greyest of all grey men, Rainer Gut, and against that no one can do a thing," its editorial commented.

The "Le Matin" newspaper of Lausanne says the real showdown at the meeting was between Peter Forstmoser, the man representing the main shareholders - Switzerland's two biggest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse - and the rest of the 2,500 people present.

"The anger of the people of Basel attending was very real," the newspaper commented, quoting one shareholder who described Swissair as a Zurich elephant going into the Crossair china shop.

Burdened by the past

Zurich's "Tages Anzeiger" hails Suter's services to his "child" (Crossair) but says "he should have realised earlier that at the top of the new airline there needs to be an integration figure, who is not burdened by the past".

The Geneva newspaper "Le Temps" comments on the emotions at Crossair and the apparent lack of them at Swissair.

"What will remain from this meeting are the moving tears of a man who had led his company well, while no one has yet seen any tears from those responsible for the collapse of Swissair," it commented.

The "Bund" newspaper of Bern honed in on the observation that Suter left no one indifferent.

"The very manner of Suter's farewell was in keeping with his polarising effect. You were for him or against him - friend or enemy," it commented.

Looking to the future, most newspapers agree that the way forward for the new airline is fraught with risk.

"Start preparations in windy weather" is the headline of the commentary appearing in Zurich's "Neue Zürcher Zeitung".

"The most difficult exercise in building up the new airline will be to bring together the corporate cultures of Crossair and Swissair. If the resources aren't successfully pooled, there will be the risk of another financial collapse," it feels.

"The financial risks are enormous, as is shown by the budgeted loss of SFr1 billion ($600 million) for the year 2002," it adds.

by Robert Brookes

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