Portugal’s Minister of Finance Fernando Medina and Minister of Infrastructure João Galamba told journalists in a joint press conference on March 6 in Lisbon that TAP Portugal CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener and the Chairman of the Board of Directors Manuel Beja have been removed from their positions.

Ourmières-Widener, who has been CEO of the Star Alliance partner since June 2021, will be replaced by SATA Group President and CEO Luís Rodrigues, who will also act as non-executive chairman.

The layoffs came after a number of irregularities at TAP, following a General Finance Inspection (IGF) report on the departure of former executive board member Alexandra Reis from the company in 2022 regarding a controversial severance payment for €500,000 ($532,780). This payment was illegal, Medina said during the press conference. 

Medina said he valued the work of the previous management but emphasized the dismissals of the airline’s top tier leaders was necessary to restore the relationship of trust between TAP, the country and the Portuguese people.

Galamba confirmed that the entire Executive Committee of TAP will not leave.

The government wants now to concentrate on the announced privatization of the airline. Lufthansa, Air France KLM and the IAG Group remain open to further acquisitions and have expressed their respective interest in TAP Portugal, which has a large presence in South America, especially in Brazil, and in Africa and North America. 

Aviation Daily reached out to TAP Portugal, as well as directly to Ourmières-Widener, for a statement, but did not receive a response. 

The Portuguese government announced in fall 2022 that it intends to privatize the national airline again. After the departure of JetBlue and Azul founder David Neeleman, the government regained control and now owns around 97% of the airline’s shares together with TAP employees.

In the eyes of the Portuguese Government, Rodrigues has managed the restructuring plan of SATA Group well. “The local government of the Azores plans to complete the process in 2023 as it looks to comply with European Commission (EC) conditions attached to its bailout of the carrier,” Rodrigues told Aviation Daily in November 2022. SATA Group is comprised of two Azores-based carriers SATA Air Açores and Azores Airlines.

In the past, Ourmières-Widener has served as CEO of flybe (2017-2019) and CEO of CityJet (2010-2015). Additionally, she served in other positions within Air France and the Air France KLM Group. Related to TAP’s restructuring, Ourmières-Widener told Aviation Daily in 2022, “It is a long restructuring. You don’t change an airline in one year.”

This content was originally published here.