A white Amerijet cargo plane with a blue tail landing on runway.

All-cargo airline Amerijet International abruptly ousted CEO Tim Strauss on Monday after only one year on the job and announced that former CEO and current Executive Chairman Vic Karjian will replace him on an interim basis, effective Saturday, while it conducts a search for a new CEO.

The Miami-based airline, which is owned by New York-based private equity firm ZS Fund, didn’t give a reason for the surprise change, but an industry source with close ties to the company said it was the result of a power struggle.

Karjian seemed unable to step away from day-to-day control and was encroaching on Strauss’ area of responsibility, the source said. As executive chairman, Karjian was supposed to focus on strategic planning, key partnerships and growth objectives.

“It’s not clear if there was something the investment company didn’t like or if Vic was trying to control decisions,” said the individual, who asked not to be named because of ongoing relations with the company. Strauss pushed back against Karjian’s interference, resulting in a heated exchange that led to Strauss immediate departure, the source said.

Strauss will remain at Amerijet as an adviser through the end of the year. 

The turnover at the top comes with Chief Operating Officer Brian Beach previously scheduled to leave the company this month, according to the source.

Repeated messages left with Amerijet spokesperson Christine Richards were not returned. Other efforts to reach Amerijet were unsuccessful. 

Strauss is a respected air cargo veteran who was vice president of cargo at Air Canada (OTCUS: AC) for several years before succeeding Karjian in August 2020. He previously held executive positions at Delta Cargo (Northwest Airlines before Delta’s takeover), Hawaiian Airlines Cargo and freighter operator Emery Worldwide. 

People familiar with Amerijet have been impressed with Strauss’ work so far. He has beefed up the airline’s freighter fleet, won a contract to take over flying five aircraft for DHL Express, helped grow the company’s revenue, and was developing plans to expand into long-haul operations in the Asia-Pacific region.

The airline currently operates 15 aircraft, up from 10 at the beginning of the year, including 14 Boeing 767 freighters and one Airbus A321 narrowbody plane, according to Airfleets.net. The A321 is under an operating lease with Titan Airways in the U.K. Strauss was planning to increase the fleet to 27 aircraft by the end of next year.

Strauss also brought in new talent this year, including several former Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) professionals.

Eric Wilson, the new chief commercial officer, previously was managing director of global cargo sales at Delta. Chris Mazzeo, a consultant at the International Air Transport Association who once led Delta’s international cargo operations, was named vice president of global operations in July. Eric Anderson was named director of revenue management and pricing during the summer. He spent 13 years in leadership positions at Delta and most recently worked for Amazon in Tokyo. Last week, the company announced the addition of Ray Bennett as vice president of technical operations. He previously was an executive at Meggitt and spent more than a decade leading maintenance at Delta. 

Craig Bently was also recently  named as vice president of flight operations.

Karjian built up Amerijet from a regional carrier into a global air cargo provider, with significant expansion into long-term lease and crew outsourcing operations for airlines and other customers. The airline also provides cargo services to the U.S. Department of Defense as part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.

“We are very pleased that Vic has agreed to step in as interim CEO. Having led the company since 2016, he is extremely familiar with the company’s customers and operations and will provide for continuity in the business during this interim period,” said board member and ZS Fund partner Bob Horne in a statement. “The company appreciates Tim’s many contributions over this past year, and we wish him well in his next chapter. The board looks forward to working with Vic to continue Amerijet’s profitable growth while we search for our next CEO.”

Amerijet started in 1974 with one leased aircraft providing small cargo and passenger flights between the U.S. and the Bahamas. It now operates a fleet of dedicated Boeing 767 converted freighters throughout the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America. Last year it began operating from Miami International Airport to Brussels Airport in Belgium.

The company will soon be adding several Boeing 757 aircraft to its fleet to provide additional capacity and route options for its customers.


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