Air Partner appoints interim finance boss after accounting failure

22 May 2018 3 min. read
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Following the resignation of former CFO Neil Morris, after an accounting error in the region of £4 million, professional services firm Air Partner has been searching for a replacement. While the hunt continues, the firm has appointed former Gatwick Airport Finance leader Chris Mann to the role on an interim basis.

The global aviation industry is in a period of extreme flux in 2018. New levels of demand mean airlines are planning to add more than 10,000 planes to the collective fleet by 2027, while the industry comes under pressure to electrify its machinery to improve environmental impacts. On top of all of this, meanwhile, increased competition has recently seen a succession of international airlines liquidated or restructured.

Amid this chaotic environment, consultancies have been preparing for a glut of work in the industry – be it as administrators, digital transformation advisors, or operational consultants, among other service lines – with a number of firms utilising merger and acquisition activities to grow their capabilities before this apparent spike in demand. One such group was Air Partner, which purchased UK-based environmental and air traffic control specialist SafeSkys in October 2017. While the addition of SafeSkys gave Air Partner access to a client base worth revenue of £1.8 million in 2016, however, the purchaser’s broader business has seen a turbulent 2018.

Chris Mann, Interim CFO - Air Partner

In April, Air Partner, the operations of which are also known for flying some of the world's best-known celebrities and sports stars around the world – revealed "an issue relating to its accounting for receivables and deferred income." The firm subsequently appointed Big Four auditors PwC and Rosenblatt to conduct a review of its problems. While at the time, Air Partner estimated the error in its accounts was in the region of £3.3 million, it later suggested a more vague figure, venturing simply that the figure would not exceed £4 million.

According to Air Partner has said the review had made good progress, as the firm looks to get back on course – however it has also had to complete a change of management amid its diversion. Former Chief Financial Officer Neil Morris was forced to resign, following the revelation of the multi-million pounds stretching back over the prior seven years, a hunt which looks set to continue into the second half of 2018.

In the meantime, chartered accountant Chris Mann has been positioned as the firm’s new CFO on an interim basis, until a long-term replacement can be found. Mann will neither be a director of the company, nor will he sit as a member of its board.

Over a career spanning the best part of 25 years, Mann has worked in finance positions at senior level for a variety of companies. Most recently this has seen a four year stint as Finance Director at Kone Corporation, an international provider of elevators and lifts with a UK turnover of £250 million, a position he will return to following his interim role. Prior to this, Mann spent three years in Finance with major international aviation hub Gatwick Airport.