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Ethiopian Airlines CEO resigns amid health concerns

ADDIS ABABA, MARCH 23, 2022 — Ethiopian Airlines announced in a statement today the "early retirement" of Tewolde GebreMariam, Ethiopian Group Chief Executive Officer, due to health concerns.

In the statement Ethiopian Airlines said Tewolde GebreMariam has been under medical treatment in the USA for the last six months.

"As he needs to focus on his personal health issues, he is unable to continue leading the airline as a Group CEO, a duty which demands closer presence and full attention round the clock. Accordingly, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam requested the Board of Management of Ethiopian Airlines Group (the “Board”), for early retirement in order for him to focus his full attention to his medical treatment", read the statement.

The Board, in its ordinary meeting held on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, accepted Mr. Tewolde’s request for an "early retirement". 

Tewolde GebreMariam was appointed by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines in January 2011. At the time many objected the appointment which appeared to be based on ethnicity rather than merit. Both Zenawi and GebreMariam are from the Tigrayan ethnic group, a minority ethnic group which dominated the Ethiopian politics for 27 years under the umbrella of Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), now a designated terrorist group by the Ethiopian parliament since May 2021.

Despite criticisms, however, GebreMariam served the Airline in various positions for 26 years until he came to be its Chief on January 2011 and led the Airline in the last decade to a remarkable success  reflected in its exceptional performance in all parameters including but not limited to exponential growth from one Billion USD annual turn-over to 4.5 Billion, from 33 airplanes to 130 airplanes and from 3 million passengers to 12 million passengers (pre-COVID).

"Under his leadership, the airline group has grown by four fold in all measurements building more than USD 700 million worth of vital infrastructure like Africa’s biggest hotel, Cargo terminal, MRO hangars and shops, Aviation Academy and Full Flight Simulators. The Board, the Senior Management, employees and the whole Ethiopian Airlines family express their gratefulness for his contribution and wish him full recovery soon", says the statement from Ethiopian Airlines.

The Board is expected to announce the new Group CEO and successor to Tewolde GebreMariam. 

Accordingly, Girma Wake, former CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, has been appointed recently as a new Chairman of the Board of Management of Ethiopian Airlines Group by the Ethiopian Public Enterprises Holding & Administration Agency. He will be expected to name the new CEO soon.

Girma Wake is a highly experienced, successful and well-regarded business leader and a well-known figure in the aviation industry who previously led Ethiopian Airlines for 7 years as a CEO and laid the foundation for the fast and profitable growth of the airline. The combination of his experience, work-culture and drive makes him capable of chairing the board and take the airline to the next level. Mr. Girma’s decision-making skills are tested and well proved.

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