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Royal Mail PLC

Royal Mail appoints former British Airways boss as new chairman

Keith Williams will replace Les Owen, who has been chairman since September when he took over the reins from Peter Long.

Royal Mail
The postal operator has been struggling with falling letter volumes

Royal Mail Group PLC (LON:RMG) has appointed former British Airways boss Keith Williams as its new chairman to help the postal operator tackle falling letter volumes and slowing parcel deliveries.  

Williams, who was taken on as deputy chairman in November and joined the board in January, will become chairman on May 22 after the company’s full-year results.

READ: Royal Mail expects letter volumes to miss forecasts and parcel deliveries to slow in 2020

He joins the company from Aviva PLC (LON:AV) where he was chair of the audit committee.

Williams previously worked at British Airways, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group PLC (LON:IAG), for 18 years from 1998. He spent five years as chief financial officer, three years as chief executive and two years as executive chairman.

He became chief executive of British Airways in 2011 when it merged with Spanish carrier Iberia to form International Consolidated Airlines Group.

In 2016, he left the airline to become the deputy chairman of John Lewis.

Williams replaces Les Owen, who has been chairman since September when he took over the reins from Peter Long.  Long left after three years in the role following a backlash over his pay.

Royal Mail has previously said it expected Owen to remain chair for about 12-18 months, which would give it plenty of time to refresh skills on the board and line up his successor.

 "Our external search has confirmed that Keith Williams is the right person to chair the Royal Mail Group through a significant period of change,” Royal Mail senior independent director, Orna Ni-Chionna, said in Friday’s announcement.

“The company will benefit from his strong leadership skills, and his industrial relations, operational and strategic expertise.”

In January, Royal Mail cut the upper range of its 2019 profit guidance and expects letter volumes next year to decline more than previously estimated and parcel deliveries to slow.

The postal operator has been struggling with falling letter volumes as more consumers and businesses switch to electronic communication. The parcels business has been hit by tough competition from the likes of Amazon, DPD and Hermes.  

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