April 13, 2013 / 10:41 AM / in 5 years

Ducati CEO in pole for Alitalia's top seat -reports

MILAN, April 13 (Reuters) - Gabriele Del Torchio, chief executive of Italian motorcycle maker Ducati, is the front-runner to take on the driver’s seat at loss-making airline Alitalia, Italian newspapers reported on Saturday.

Alitalia’s former chief executive Andrea Ragnetti quit after only a year in the job in February as the struggling airline company reported a net loss of 280 million euros ($367 million) in 2012.

Alitalia, 25 percent owned by Air France-KLM, suffered last year from a drop in demand for air travel amid the euro zone debt crisis and recession in Italy.

The board of Alitalia is expected to name a new chief executive next week, Il Corriere della Sera said without citing their sources. Il Messaggero said the board could meet on April 18.

“This is an idea, I haven’t signed anything yet,” Del Torchio, known as a turnaround expert at Ducati, told Il Corriere della Sera.

Alitalia was not immediately reachable for a comment.

Ducati was bought by Volkswagen’s division Audi last year. Revenues rose 16 percent to 606 million euros in 2012.

Alitalia was rescued from bankruptcy in 2008, when it was bought by a consortium made up of Italian companies including Intesa Sanpaolo, road operator Atlantia and IMMSI, which also controls scooter maker Piaggio .

Air France-KLM, which has held its stake in Alitalia since January 2009, has said it will probably wait until at least 2014 before using an option to take control of the airline. ($1 = 0.7635 euros) (Reporting by Antonella Ciancio; editing by Ron Askew)

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