Budget carrier SpiceJet has accepted the resignation of its chief Executive Niel Raymond Mills, 18 months before his service contract was to expire.
While no name has been announced for his successor, the airline informed the Bombay Stock Exchange that Mills' resignation, submitted last month, was accepted by the Board of Directors at a meeting on Friday" in accordance with the terms of his employment with the company".
Mills, who is the third CEO for the Chennai-based private carrier in the past five years, had year-and-a-half to complete his contract.
The resignation came amid reports that the airline was in advanced stages of talks with a foreign airline and other strategic investors in a bid to raise funds to cope with heightened competition.
While some Gulf-based carriers have scotched reports about investing in SpiceJet, speculation is rife that an airline from Southeast or East Asia was in talks with it.
Following reports a few week ago about SpiceJet carrying out negotiations to attract foreign investment, the airline had said, "We reiterate that few investors have evinced interest in the company post the government allowing foreign direct investment by the foreign airlines in domestic carrier.
"It will be very premature to comment on the possibility of any fresh equity issuance to such interested parties or confirm/deny names of any such entity," it had said in a statement.
The industry had been abuzz with rumours that SpiceJet promoters were upset with poor earnings last fiscal when it reported a loss of Rs 191 crore (Rs 1.91 billion), which they blamed on the cheap ticket scheme Mills had offered in January.
His exit from SpiceJet came a few months after Chief Commercial Officer Harish Moideen Kutty quit a year after he joined the budget airline. He was the second Chief Commercial Officer to quit the Kalanthi Maran-owned airline in 18 months.
Mills had joined SpiceJet in 2010 and was hired by Maran from no-frill carrier FlyDubai after the media baron bought the airline from NRI promoter Bhulo Kansagra in the same year. In the last three years, the promoters have pumped Rs 350 crore (Rs 3.5 billion) into SpiceJet, which has lost Rs 796 crore (Rs 7.96 billion).
SpiceJet, started in 2005, has a market share of about 20 per cent against IndiGo's 30 per cent. It operates a 56-aircraft fleet which include Boeing 737s and Bombardier Q400s.