EasyJet will next week launch a search for a new chief executive when it confirms that Carolyn McCall is resigning to run ITV, the commercial broadcaster.
Sky News has learnt that the UK’s biggest airline by passenger numbers will conduct a search including both internal and external candidates to replace Ms McCall, who is stepping down after seven years in the cockpit.
Sources said this weekend that her move to succeed Adam Crozier at ITV had been “all but signed” and that it would be announced to the London Stock Exchange as early as Monday morning.
Her exit from easyJet will throw the spotlight onto potential internal successors such as Peter Duffy, the airline’s commercial director, and. Andrew Findlay, the chief financial officer.
John Barton, easyJet’s chairman, is said to be confident of being able to choose from a strong list of airline industry executives to replace Ms McCall, who has presided over a trebling of its share price and transformation of its customer service and brand.
The departure of Ms McCall is not expected until the end of the year, according to a source briefed on her negotiations with ITV.
Its announcement, however, will come less than a handful of days after easyJet unveiled plans to create a subsidiary in Austria to enable it to continue flying between European Union countries after Brexit.
The airline has been hit by the weakness of sterling and an escalating price war in the aviation market, but has remained highly profitable.
Ms McCall, who previously ran Guardian Media Group, will also face tough trading conditions at ITV, which is gripped in the vice of a declining television advertising market.
The broadcaster has, though, also seen its stock market value transformed, with Mr Crozier cutting costs aggressively and growing revenue from its production arm.
ITV’s shares have also benefited from persistent takeover speculation, which was fuelled by a move by Liberty Global, the owner of Virgin Media, to buy a minority stake in the broadcaster.
The easyJet chief beat competition for the ITV job from Paul Geddes, the boss of insurer Direct Line Group, and – as Sky News revealed this month – Seb James, chief executive of the retailer Dixons Carphone.
Both easyJet and ITV declined to comment on Saturday.