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Spurned Air France- KLM CEO candidate takes aim at Accor

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Philippe Capron, the former frontrunner to become Air France-KLM CEO, has said that the recruitment process left him with a sense of frustration and waste as well as fear for the future of the airline.

Paris

AIR France-KLM spiralled further into disarray as the former frontrunner to become chief executive officer accused hotel operator Accor SA of barring his path in order to gain creeping control of the airline.

Philippe Capron, finance head at Veolia Environnement SA, officially pulled his candidacy for the position on Monday in a letter seen by Bloomberg News to the carrier's chairman, Anne-Marie Couderc.

While the three-page document does not name Accor, it leaves no doubt as to the identity of "private interests" determined to gain control of the airline and access to its database of customers.

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The French operator of brands such as the Raffles, Sofitel and Mercure hotels, said in May that it is considering acquiring a minority stake in the airline. Chief executive officer Sebastien Bazin later said that he wants to deepen relations through digital initiatives, a loyalty programme and online marketing.

An Air France-KLM spokeswoman declined to comment, while a spokeswoman for Veolia did not immediately respond. Accor declined to comment.

The contents of the letter were first reported by the Financial Times and later published on the website of La Tribune newpaper.

Mr Capron was put forth by the nominations committee of Air France- KLM's board last month as the leading candidate for the job left open by the resignation of Jean-Marc Janaillac, who was unable to end a series of crippling strikes. The water utility executive was axed from the running within days, with Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne calling for someone with transport expertise.

In the letter, Mr Capron said that outside forces intervened to block his hire, showing that "governance was derailed" at the airline. The executive also described a company under sway of competing interests, including those of the French government, which holds a 14 per cent stake.

Mr Capron said that Accor wants to team up with other investors to gain control of the airline in a bid to get around European Union rules on airline ownership.

Accor's biggest shareholders are based in China, Qatar and Dubai.

In the letter, Mr Capron said that the recruitment process at Air France-KLM left him with a sense of frustration and waste as well as fear for the future of the airline due to its ongoing "moral" crisis. BLOOMBERG