Eli Defes, chairman of El Al Israel Airlines, announced on Sunday that he has stepped down immediately because of an undisclosed medical condition.
While it remains unclear who will replace the 66-year old, who has held the post since 2017, frontrunners for the promotion include the airline’s two vice chairpeople: Yehuda Levy and Tamar Mozes-Borovitz.
Defes steps down amid concerns about the stability of the Israeli flag carrier, expressed by both unions and the country’s public.
Aside from cargo service and a handful of repatriation flights, El Al’s fleet has been grounded since March – however, as the airline irons out the final details on a July bailout with the Israeli government worth some US$400 million, the airline plans to resume passenger services over the months to come.
The deal includes $250 million in loan guarantees from the government, with a further $150 million to be raised from a capital raise tied to an August deadline.
While recent suitors have emerged for the shares being issued (including prominent US-based businessmen Meir Gurvitz and Eli Rozenberg), the deal remains as yet finalised; though the Israeli government has committed to buying them out if a deal can’t be struck.
In addition to chairing the board at El Al Israel Airlines, Defes sits on the boards of four other companies, including Clalit Biomedical Engineering, Shila Clalit Smile, Mor Research, and Harel Insurance.
“I have full confidence in the company’s management and board members who will know how to lead El Al to beyond this crisis to a more stable and secure future,” Defes wrote in his resignation letter.