The incoming chief executive of long-troubled discount airline Norwegian has no experience in the airline industry. Jacob Schram, who most recently has had top management jobs in the Circle K retail and gas station chain, doesn’t think that’s a problem.
Schram will take over as chief executive of Norwegian Air on January 1, succeeding founder Bjørn Kjos, who retired last year. He freely admitted to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Wednesday that “I don’t have the knowledge that this place has,” as he looked around the canteen in Norwegian’s headquarters. “But I expect to pick up that knowledge, and experience, relatively quickly and learn more.”
Both Norwegian Air’s Danish chairman Niels Smedegaard and Schram himself also point to his experience with customers from his years at McDonald’s and Circle K, which took over the Statoil Fuel & Retail chain of gasoline stations and retail outlets. Schram, age 57, has also worked for the management consulting firm McKinsey and holds a master’s degree in economics from the Copenhagen Business School.
He’ll relieve Norwegian’s finance director Geir Karlsen, who has been acting CEO since Kjos pared back last summer and will turn all his attention back to finance. “I want to especially thank Karlsen for the outstanding job he has done after Bjørn Kjos pulled back last July,” Smedegaard stated. He claimed that under Karlsen, the airline had become much stronger and recently posted the best quarterly results in its history.
Debt levels remain high, however, and Smedegaard told DN that tackling them will be a top priority.
“With Schram and Karlsen in top management, we have a solid team in place to take Norwegian videre,” Smedegaard said.