AirAsia chief bought ailing airline for less than a dollar

TONY Fernandes, the Malaysian business tycoon, took over the ailing government-linked commercial airline AirAsia 13 years ago and transformed it into a hugely successful budget airline.

Fernandes, who had worked his way up through the music industry at both Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Records and at Warner Music International, mortgaged his home and his personal savings to buy the airline in 2001.

He bought it for one Malaysian ringgit (about 50 cents) and took on the carrier's only two aircraft, a pair of Boeing 737-300 jets, and debts of more than £7 million.

The businessman turned it into a low-cost airline with the tag line "Now everyone can fly," and today it is the fourth largest carrier in the region.

Fernandes, who is the chairman of England's football team QPR and former owner of F1 team Caterham, had a net worth of $650 million as of February according to Forbes, which listed him as the 28th richest person in Malaysia.

The entrepreneur, who was educated in Malaysia before attending Epsom College in Surrey, and later the London School of Economics, said he had "always dreamt about doing a long haul, low-cost airline," and made sure his first flight on the carrier was London to Kuala Lumpur.

More on this at The Independent