Lauda stays associated with his airline

NIKI LAUDA will remain associated with the airline that carries his name as the man in charge at the Milan-based Lauda-Air Italy, according to aviation sources which also believe that the former triple World Champion's recent resignation as boss of the entire company could have major repercussions for the Austrian airline market.

Audited reports suggested that Lauda-Air was heading towards making a financial loss for the financial year until November 2000, but last month the airline proceeded with a 67 million dollar aircraft sale and leaseback agreement involving its Boeing 737s and 767s.

Such a move is not unusual in the aviation industry, but Austrian Airlines - which holds 36 per cent of Lauda-Air - strongly objected. It has now approached Lufthansa with a view to purchasing its 20 per cent share in Lauda, which would give it majority control of the company first established by the former racing ace in 1977.

It is ironic that Austrian Airlines originally attempted to block Lauda's plans to establish the company in the late 1970s. Now it has had the last laugh by taking it over. One doubts if Niki will have seen the funny side, however.

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