Two days after the airfreight industry was surprised by Dirk Reich’s decision to leave Cargolux, another shock was felt today from the ground-handling side, as Olivier Bijaoui, president and CEO of Worldwide Flight Services (WFS), has abruptly left the company less than a year after WFS was purchased by Platinum Equity.
Platinum did not provide a reason for Bijaoui’s resignation, but it did say the company’s curfrent COO, Barry Nassberg, will assume the CEO role on an interim basis until a permanent CEO can be found.
Bijaoui had appeared to be in lock step with the WFS strategy of aggressive growth, which included the purchase of a 51 percent stake in Fraport Cargo Services. After Platinum Equity took control of the company last October, the company said it planned to double in size over the next two years. Part of this growth included the 51 percent acquisition earlier this year of Consolidated Aviation Services (CAS), the largest cargo-handling company in North America.
Olivier Bijaoui, based in Paris, held the roles of president and CEO at WFS since 2003. Previous to that, he had served for three years as WFS’ executive vice president of cargo and international. He also held executive positions at Paris-based ground handler SFS, and later AMR Service, which purchased SFS in 1993. Bijaoui also created the WFS Foundation in 2012 to help “facilitate social integration and integration into the employment market.”
Nassberg, the incoming interim CEO at WFS, sought to calm any fears of further disruptions in WFS’ business plan. “WFS is a strong and growing company with dedicated employees throughout the organization and strong leaders at every level,” he said in a prepared statement. “Our recent acquisition of CAS has all the potential we expected and the integration of our companies is proceeding ahead of schedule. We also have several new business wins coming on line and a robust pipeline of additional opportunities.”
Bastian Lueken, head of Platinum Equity, also said that WFS will continue to move forward on its strategic growth plans. “Teams throughout the company are performing at a high level with an intense focus on serving customers,” he said. “We are pleased with the direction the company is headed and are fully committed to supporting its long-term strategic plan.”
No timeline was given for a final replacement for Bijaoui, but Lueken said he “expects a seamless transition” following a global search for the right candidate.