Tony Fernandes

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Tony Fernandes

Tony Fernandes 2019.jpg
Fernandes in July 2019
Anthony Francis Fernandes

(1964-04-30) 30 April 1964 (age 58)
EducationEpsom College and Alice Smith School
Alma materLondon School of Economics
Occupation(s)Group Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Berhad
Founder of Tune Group
Shareholder and Owner of Queens Park Rangers
Chairman of Petaling Jaya Rangers
  • Deborah Lee Bergstrom (separated)
Chloe Kim
(m. 2017)

Anthony Francis Fernandes PSM, CBE (born 30 April 1964) is a Malaysian entrepreneur. He is the founder of Tune Air Sdn. Bhd., which took over the first Malaysian budget airline, AirAsia.[1] Fernandes turned AirAsia, a failing government-linked commercial airline, into a highly successful budget airline public-listed company. He has since founded the Tune Group of companies. He is also the majority shareholder of Queens Park Rangers Football Club. He is the owner of Caterham Group, the parent company of British car manufacturer Caterham Cars.

Early life and education[edit]

Fernandes was born in Kuala Lumpur on 30 April 1964 to a Goan father[2] and a mother of mixed Indian (Malayali[3]) and Asian-Portuguese (Kristang) descent who had been raised in Malacca, Malaysia.[2][4] At a young age, he would follow his mother who sold Tupperware at Tupperware parties.[4]

He was educated at The Alice Smith School in Kuala Lumpur. Starting at age 12, from 1976 to 1983, he studied at Epsom College boarding school in England.[5] He matriculated to the London School of Economics and graduated with a degree in accounting.[6]


He worked very briefly with Virgin Atlantic as an auditor,[7] subsequently becoming the financial controller for Richard Branson's Virgin Communications in London from 1987 to 1989 before he joined Warner Music International London as Senior Financial Analyst.[8]

Fernandes was admitted as an associate member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in 1991 and became Fellow in 1996. He is currently a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

Fernandes was formerly a Warner Music executive in Malaysia,[9] and Vice President, ASEAN at Warner Music South East Asia from December 1999 to July 2001.[8] When Time Warner (now WarnerMedia) announced its merger with America Online, Fernandes left the company to start an airline company.


In 2001, Fernandes met Dr Mahathir Mohamed, then Prime Minister of Malaysia. Instead of starting from scratch, Mahathir advised Fernandes to buy an existing airline.[10] AirAsia, the heavily indebted subsidiary of the Malaysian government-owned conglomerate, DRB-Hicom, was then losing money. Fernandes mortgaged his home and used his personal savings to acquire the company, comprising two Boeing 737-300 jet aircraft and debts of US$11 million (RM40 million), for one ringgit (about 26 US cents).[11] One year after his takeover, AirAsia had broken even and cleared all its debts.[10] Its initial public offering (IPO) in November 2004 was oversubscribed by 130 per cent.[10]

Fernandes attributes the success of AirAsia partly to timing. After the 11 September 2001 attacks at New York City and Washington, D.C., aircraft leasing costs fell 40%. Also, airline lay-offs meant experienced staff were readily available. He believed Malaysian travellers would embrace a cut-rate air service that would save them time and money, especially in a tight economy. Fernandes estimates about 50 per cent of the travellers on Asia's budget airlines are first-time flyers.[citation needed] Before the advent of AirAsia, he estimated that only six per cent of Malaysians had ever travelled by air.[12]

He was also instrumental in lobbying the then-Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in mid-2003, to propose the idea of open skies agreements with neighbouring Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore.[13] As a result, these nations granted landing rights to AirAsia and other discount carriers.[11]

In Thailand and Indonesia, AirAsia holds a minority stake in the respective local companies. Thai AirAsia, a joint venture with Shin Corporation, Thailand's largest telecommunication conglomerate, took to the skies in Feb 2004 and has to date carried over 1 million passengers in its first year of operations. PT Awair, re-launched as a low fare airline on 8 December 2004 and subsequently renamed Indonesia AirAsia, presently serves 5 domestic destinations in Indonesia.[citation needed]

In 2018 Fernandes announced that more low-cost carrier terminals would be developed,[14] and confirmed that while AirAsia needed new planes, he had not yet decided on an aircraft manufacturer.[15] Fernandes’ plans to expand include bidding on the operations and maintenance contract for Clark International Airport in the Philippines.[16]

In February 2020, Fernandes stepped aside as CEO of AirAsia as Airbus bribery allegations probed.[17][18] A month later, Fernandes was reinstated as CEO of AirAsia after the Airbus bribery allegations probe was cleared by Britain's Serious Fraud Office of any wrongdoing.[19]

Other ventures[edit]

In 2007, Fernandes started a hotel chain, Tune Hotels, based on the no frills concept. It has properties in Britain, Australia and the Far East.[20]

In March 2012, he served on the International Advisory Board of Global March to Jerusalem, which aims to "mobilize the international community in solidarity with Palestinians and to protect Jerusalem."[21] A joint statement was issued, signed by the various members of the Board, including Fernandes.[22]

In 2013, he hosted the first season of The Apprentice Asia, the Asian spin-off of the reality game show The Apprentice, in which a group of aspiring young businesspeople compete for the chance to work with Fernandes.[23] However, his role will be replaced by Founder, chairman, and CEO of ONE Championship, Chatri Sityodtong for the second season in 2021.

In 2018, he was named the head of Malaysia Stadium Corporation (MSC) by the Malaysian Youth and Sports Ministry.[24]

In 2020, he ventured to food delivery as COVID-19 has hit hard on Air Asia.[25]

Caterham Group[edit]

Fernandes is the founder of the Caterham F1 Formula One team, which began racing in 2010 as Lotus Racing and raced in 2011 as Team Lotus. On 2 July 2014, Caterham F1 was sold to a Swiss and Middle Eastern consortium.[26]

On 16 December 2009, Fernandes accepted a "challenge" from Richard Branson, a fellow airline boss and the owner of Lotus' fellow F1 newcomers Virgin Racing. The losing team's boss would work on the winner's airline for a day dressed as a steward.[27] Branson lost. Fernandes' team produced a poster depicting Branson in an Air Asia uniform. However, the date of the flight was delayed several times: first because of Branson breaking his leg, then because of the royal wedding, and later because of a fire at the Necker Island. On 19 December 2012, Fernandes announced that Branson would honour his bet in May 2013. Branson ultimately honoured the bet on 13 May 2013.[28]

Caterham Racing, also created by Fernandes, competed in the GP2 Series. In October 2014, Tony Fernandes sold the team to Teddy Yip Jr. and he relocated it to Silverstone to merge with Status Grand Prix.[29]

On 27 April 2011, Fernandes announced that his company had purchased Caterham Cars.


Tony Fernandes watching QPR v Newcastle alongside Les Ferdinand at Loftus Road, May 2015

Fernandes is a fan of English club West Ham United and was involved in talks regarding a potential takeover of the club in May 2011, at which stage it looked as if he was going to acquire a 51 per cent stake in the club. Former West Ham chairman Andrew Bernhardt even flew to Kuala Lumpur to try and finalise the deal, but the two parties failed to agree on the price.[30] It was just one month later when Fernandes made another offer to buy 51 per cent of the club, although co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold rejected his bid. Sullivan told the Evening Standard: "He wanted 51% of the club for two bob." Sullivan's comments started a war of words on Twitter. "It was a good offer with good money and brought in good people," said Fernandes. "Gold and Sullivan can say whatever they want. I have been a lifelong fan and would have brought good money, good ideas, new people and a new belief. As for PR stunts. Wow. They are always in the press making huge claims. Were we not supposed to be in Europe. Now we have been relegated. Two sacked managers. All good players will be sold. No new training ground which is the most important ingredient I feel. Look at how many injuries we have. And more investment into the academy."[31]

On 18 August 2011, just three months after Queens Park Rangers' promotion back to the Premier League following a 15-year absence, Fernandes was unveiled as their majority shareholder, having bought Bernie Ecclestone's 66% stake. He was also named as chairman of QPR Holdings Ltd.[32]

Everyone knows I've followed West Ham all my life but I've always had a soft spot for QPR. Rangers were one of the first teams I watched as a child at Loftus Road. I've always wanted to be involved in football and the appeal of a London club, like QPR, was too good an opportunity to turn down.

Tony Fernandes, August 2011[32]

While Neil Warnock remained as the club's manager for their return to the top-flight, a run of eight Premier League games without a win eventually led to his sacking.[33] Mark Hughes was quickly named as his replacement, signing a two-and-a-half-year deal in the process.[34] Despite their new manager, QPR's poor run of form continued, which left them fighting for Premier League survival on the final day of the 2011-2012 season. Relegation rivals Bolton Wanderers needed a win to have any chance of survival, but could only muster a draw with Stoke City,[35] meaning QPR were safe, despite losing 3–2 to Manchester City after Sergio Agüero's injury-time winner - a goal which stole the Premier League title from arch-rivals Manchester United on goal difference.[36]

Tony Fernandes' seat at Loftus Road

Mark Hughes led the club into the 2012-2013 season, but after just four points from 12 games and without a single win - one of the worst starts in Premier League history - Fernandes dismissed Hughes.[37][38] Fernandes hired former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp on 24 November 2012,[39][40] but even he was unable to solve QPR's problems. Following a goalless draw with relegation rivals Reading on 28 April 2013, both teams were relegated to the Championship.[41]

Speaking to the media just one week after Rangers' relegation back to the Championship, Fernandes said he had been exploited since he took over at Loftus Road. After investing an estimated £50 million into the club, he said: "I don't think I will be exploited any more. I think I allowed myself to be exploited but that's my choice. Agents are trying to get the best contracts and there are no two ways about it, I had to pay premiums. I've seen all of the parts that make football quite - maybe immoral is a strong word - but they would sell their grandmother to do something. It's all part of the football ecosystem."[42]

In 2013 Fernandes noted in an interview that he would leave the club if he was unable to “fix” their problems.[43] In a 2017 interview, after a year in the Premier league in 2014-15 and three years relegated to the Championship league from 2015 to 2018, Fernandes admitted having made several mistakes, but also noted that much had been achieved. He restored the former QPR badge and colours and engaged more with the community near Loftus Road.[44] In August 2018, Fernandes noted that his tenure was “fast coming to a close”.[45]". He planned to step down and hand over the position of co-chairman to vice chairman Amit Bhatia,[45] a change finalised on 15 August 2018.[46]

Personal life[edit]

Fernandes was previously married to Deborah Lee Bergstrom on 1 June 1994 and separated. They had a daughter and a son, Stephanie and Stephen.[47]

On 14 October 2017, Fernandes married Chloe Kim, at Hotel Cap Estel, in Èze on the French Riviera after having dated her for more than two years.[48][49][50] On 3 October 2021, he announced on his LinkedIn that his third child, Aliyah Ena Fernandes and was born on August 14, 2021.[51]

He is also an Overseas Citizen of India, owing to his partial Indian ancestry.[52]

Fernandes revealed in an interview with Free Malaysia Today in September 2016 that he does not speak Malay,[53] stating that he can understand but can't speak it very well.[2]

As of 2020, Forbes valued Fernandes' net worth at US$335 million, dropping from US$650 million that rank him at number 28 on the Forbes list of Malaysia's Richest in February 2014 then.[54] In November 2020, he sold an Ayrshire estate in Scotland for £2.5 million (S$4.45 million), as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on airlines worldwide.[55]

Honours and awards[edit]

Honours of Malaysia[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

Honorary degrees[edit]


Fernandes has received several awards for his achievements:

  • International Herald Tribune Award for the "Visionaries & Leadership Series", for his outstanding work in AirAsia
  • "Malaysian CEO of the Year 2003" in December 2003; so far awarded to only nine other recipients in the country, by American Express and Business Times. The award was an initiative to recognise entrepreneurial and managerial expertise and performance among leaders of Malaysian corporations.
  • Named the joint winner of the CEO of the Year 2003 award by American Express Corporate Services and Business Times
  • "Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year" in the Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards" in 2003
  • Made the list of Business Week's "25 Stars of Asia" in 2005
  • Malaysian Ernst & Young "Entrepreneur of the Year 2006"
  • "Excellence In Leadership - Asia Pacific Leadership Awards 2009"
  • 2010 Forbes Asia businessman of the year[70]
  • 2011 No. 52 in FastCompany's Top 100 Most Creative People in Business[71]
  • "Brand Builder of the Year" 2014 at the World Branding Awards, for his work in building the AirAsia brand[72]


  1. ^ "Tony Fernandes - Profile". London Speaker Bureau Asia. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Ding Jo-Ann (19 November 2009). "We were Malaysians first". The Nut Graph. Retrieved 2 May 2017. My father was an Indian citizen, a doctor. He was from Goa... [...] My mother was a Malaysian from Malacca — Ena Fernandez. They both had the same surname — one with "z", one with "s".
  3. ^ Kanika Datta (18 May 2010). "Tea with Tony Fernandes". Business Standard. Retrieved 2 May 2017. 'My mother was a Fernandez as well, with a 'z', and her ancestors were Malyalee', he says.
  4. ^ a b Brian Mertens (3 December 2010). "Flying On A Budget". Forbes. Retrieved 28 December 2014. At the age of six, he began his career playing the piano for guests at the sales parties hosted by his mother. Raised in Malacca of mixed Portuguese-Asian descent, his mother was an entrepreneurial-minded music teacher who launched the Tupperware direct-marketing business in Malaysia.
  5. ^ Brian Mertens (3 December 2010). "Flying On A Budget". Forbes. Retrieved 28 December 2014. Funded by his mother's Tupperware sales, Fernandes flew to England at the age of 12 for boarding school at Surrey's Epsom College, where he spent more time on sports than study.
  6. ^ "Cheap, but not nasty". Business. The Economist. 19 March 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  7. ^ Iylia Aziz (26 May 2017). "Tony Fernandes shares 3 life lessons that got him the title "Disruptor Of The Decade"". AsiaOne Online. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  8. ^ a b AirAsia 2006 Corporate Annual Report Page 34
  9. ^ Elahe Izadi (28 December 2014). "The man behind AirAsia: Flamboyant chief executive Tony Fernandes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 28 December 2014.
  10. ^ a b c "Battle-hardened Fernandes". Business Times (Malaysia). Yahoo! News. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Tony Fernandes". Bloomberg Businessweek. 11 July 2004. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  12. ^ Stevens, Andrew (24 October 2007). "Interview with Tony Fernandes". Retrieved 29 December 2014.
  13. ^ Wong Chay Nee (28 May 2007). "Open skies the way to go". The Star. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  14. ^ "Tony Fernandes: Now, MAHB understands AirAsia". 27 July 2018.
  15. ^ "AirAsia to bid for Clark Airport contract - Business News - The Star Online".
  16. ^ Lee, Liz (17 July 2018). "AirAsia's Fernandes undecided on plane order, no plans to attend..." Reuters.
  17. ^ "AirAsia CEO Fernandes and chairman step aside as Airbus bribery allegations probed"
  18. ^ "AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes steps aside amid Airbus probe"
  19. ^ "AirAsia says review cleared Airbus sponsorships; Tony Fernandes reinstated to CEO"
  20. ^ "The Richest People in Travel". The Telegraph. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  21. ^
  22. ^[bare URL PDF]
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  24. ^ "Tony Fernandes made head of Malaysia Stadium Corporation". Free Malaysia Today. 26 September 2018. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  25. ^ "Meet Tony Fernandes, your food delivery guy | The Malaysian Insight". Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  26. ^ Andrew Benson. "BBC Sport - F1: Caterham face legal action from more than 40 former staff". BBC Sport.
  27. ^ "Lotus boss accepts Branson's bet | Lotus | Formula 1 news, live F1 | ESPN F1". 16 December 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  28. ^ "Lady in Red". Virgin. 16 December 2009. Archived from the original on 22 May 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  29. ^ Alan Baldwin (17 October 2014). "Motor racing-Fernandes sells Caterham GP2 team". Reuters.
  30. ^ Jason Burt (20 November 2009). "West Ham showing signs they are on road to recovery after troubled past". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  31. ^ "Tony Fernandes hits back at West Ham owner Sullivan". BBC Sport. 3 June 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  32. ^ a b "Lotus boss Tony Fernandes completes QPR takeover". BBC News. 18 August 2011. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  33. ^ "Neil Warnock sacked as manager of Queens Park Rangers". BBC Sport. 8 January 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
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  40. ^ "Harry Redknapp returns to rescue Queens Park Rangers". BBC Sport. 24 November 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  41. ^ "Reading 0-0 QPR". BBC Sport. 28 April 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  42. ^ "QPR's Tony Fernandes: I have been exploited". BBC Sport. 4 May 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  43. ^ "QPR chairman Tony Fernandes willing to leave QPR". BBC Sport. 20 August 2018.
  44. ^ "Tony Fernandes admits to QPR mistakes since taking over 'angry club'". 8 November 2017.
  45. ^ a b "Tony Fernandes casts doubt over his future as QPR look to leave Loftus Road".
  46. ^ "Amit Bhatia appointed new chairman of QPR". English.
  47. ^ "He still dreams of flying high, but AirAsia's Tony Fernandes now wants to 'slow down a bit'". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  48. ^ "AirAsia's Tony Fernandes weds South Korean girlfriend in France". ChannelNews Asia. 15 October 2017.
  49. ^ "AirAsia boss weds Korean in France". The Malay Mail Online. 15 October 2017.
  50. ^ Rubin Khoo (12 November 2019). "Puan Sri Chloe Kim is ready to establish herself as an entrepreneur". Prestige Malaysia.
  51. ^ "Tony Fernandes Welcomes New Baby". The Star. 3 October 2021. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  52. ^ "AirAsia Berhad CEO Tony Fernandes applies for overseas citizen of India status". Economic Times. 17 March 2016.
  53. ^ "No interest in being FAM president, says Tony Fernandes". Free Malaysia Today. 11 September 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2018. He gives three reasons why it's a long shot, and says his response to an impromptu question was blown out of proportion.
  54. ^ "#21 Anthony Fernandes". Forbes. March 2020.
  55. ^ hermesauto (19 November 2020). "For sale: AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes' Scottish mansion at $4.45 million". The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 November 2020.
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  60. ^ "French govt confers Tony Fernandes with Commander of the Legion d' Honneur award". Bernama. 28 November 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  61. ^ "Tony Fernandes Legion D'Honneur". 15 April 2010. Archived from the original on 15 January 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  62. ^ "Tony Fernandes receives CBE". 6 February 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
  63. ^ "Fernandes conferred CBE for UK-Malaysia links". The Star. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  64. ^ "University of Cambodia unveils Tony Fernandes School of Business". New Straits Times. 19 May 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  65. ^ "Dato' Sri Tony Fernandes Given Honorary Doctorate Of Business Innovation". 28 March 2010. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  66. ^ "AirAsia doesn't need a doctorate in the house, but the faith of investors". Business Standard India. Business Standard. 10 June 2018. Retrieved 18 January 2022.
  67. ^ "Tony Fernandes conferred honorary doctorate by MAHSA". The Star. 14 March 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  68. ^ "Tan Sri Tony Fernandes conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Management". Universiti Putra Malaysia. 16 November 2019. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  69. ^ "AirAsia's Tony Fernandes receives honorary degree from Cranfield". Cranfield University. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  70. ^ Mertens, Brian (20 December 2010). "Flying On A Budget". Forbes.
  71. ^ "The 100 Most Creative People in Business 2011". Fast Company. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  72. ^ "Asian Brands Honoured at the 2014 World Branding Awards". Yahoo Finance. 29 October 2014. Archived from the original on 16 February 2015. Retrieved 16 February 2015.

External links[edit]