Tony Fernandes

© Caterham, 23 July 2010

© Lotus
Team Principal, Caterham
Nationality : Malaysian
Date of Birth : 30th April, 1964
Place of Birth : Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Educated at The London School of Economics, Tony Fernandes has established himself as one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. His illustrious career started in 1987 when he assumed the role of financial controller for Warner Music International London before moving to Virgin Communications at the end of the 1980s as senior financial analyst. In 1992, he returned to his native Malaysia as managing director of Warner Music Malaysia. At the end of the Millennium, Fernandes became vice president ASEAN of the company, but it was in 2001 that Fernandes’ vision took him and his associates to new heights.

Together with partners Dato’ Pahamin Rejab (former chairman of AirAsia), Dato Kamarudin Meranun (now deputy group CEO, AirAsia), and Dato Aziz Bakar (now chairman of AirAsia), Fernandes founded Tune Air Sdn Bhd in 2001, with a vision to democratise air travel and free it from the clutches of the elite by offering low fares and high quality, under the banner “Now Everyone Can Fly”. They bought the then loss making AirAsia from its Malaysian owner DRB-Hicom, for a token RM1 (USD 0.25 cents), and agreed to take on the airline’s RM40 million debt.

The airline, together with Indonesian and Thai affiliates, now operates 82 new Airbus A320s and flies to more than 65 destinations in Asia from hubs in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. The company employs almost 7,000 staff and has carried more than 75 million guests in its short history.

A similar opportunity arose with Lotus Racing, with Fernandes first approached about a sponsorship opportunity with a new team (having already brought AirAsia into F1 with Williams as a team partner). Having been an avid motorsport fan since childhood, he saw the opportunity to bring the much-loved Lotus name back to F1 and, with a consortium of Malaysian business interests, successfully led the creation and launch of the team in 2009, with the key milestone being September 12th’s confirmation of the team’s entry into the 2010 Formula 1 world championship.

Having led Lotus Racing to its first season objective of tenth place, Fernandes and his fellow shareholders oversaw the transition to Team Lotus for 2011 and to Caterham F1 Team in for 2012 and he and the whole team is now aiming to move up the grid and fight for points in their third season.

In 2010, the French government awarded Fernandes the title of Officier of the Légion d’honneur, the highest award for a non-French national, for his outstanding contributions to the aviation industry. He was also recently named “Asia Businessman of the Year 2010” by the international magazine Forbes, and in February 2011, Fernandes was awarded a CBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to promote commercial and educational links between the United Kingdom and Malaysia. Fernandes was also bestowed with the honour of being made Tan Sri Tony Fernandes in 2011 by the Malaysian King, an accolade he achieved for services to his country.


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