New boss at Air Canada was longtime ‘wingman’ for outgoing CEO

New boss at Air Canada was longtime ‘wingman’ for outgoing CEO
As Air Canada heads into what will likely be its most difficult period in recent history, Calin Rovinescu, the CEO who oversaw not one, but two transformations for the airline, has announced his retirement.

Rovinescu, the sometimes controversial and outspoken head of Air Canada, will be stepping down from his post on Feb. 15 after almost 12 years at the helm. He called Rousseau a key member of the team leading Air Canada’s transformation.

“He knows all of our strengths and opportunities and how we can lean into them,” Rovinescu said in a statement.

Vagn Sorenson, chair of Air Canada’s board of directors, added that Rousseau’s role “has evolved well beyond that of a traditional CFO” during his time at the airline, and insiders said that the succession had been planned for some time.

Rousseau is well known and respected within the chief financial officer community, but has a low public profile. He has been Air Canada’s CFO and deputy CEO since 2018. Before that, he was CFO and executive vice-president at the airline after leaving his post as president of Hudson’s Bay Company in 2007.

In addition to his role at Air Canada, Rousseau is on the board of directors for Resolute Forest Products, Inc.

In an email, Yves Laflamme, president and CEO of Resolute Forest Products, said Rousseau had been instrumental in executing the company’s own future vision. “His advice and counsel has been extremely valuable as we advance our own transformation strategy,” said Laflamme.

Georgina Blanas, executive director of Financial Executives International Canada, credits Rousseau with developing a comprehensive investor relations program while at HBC and improving the company’s cost effectiveness. As well, she said that at Air Canada he successfully stabilized the company’s pension fund, something “not easily done.”

In 2017, FEI named Rousseau CFO of the year and he’s been an “executive in residence” at the organization ever since.

Bank of Nova Scotia analyst Konark Gupta said in a note to investors that Rousseau should be credited for the airline’s “enviable balance sheet” heading into the downturn caused by COVID-19 .
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