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Gidon Novick, former joint CEO of airline company Comair, always thought he would love the airline industry. He grew up discussing it at the dinner table with his father, who was also in the business. But in his 13 years of growing what had been a family-owned business, he discovered he didn’t like that the determinants of success were outside his control. He could control the customer experience and the brand essence, and motivate the people — but he couldn’t, for example, control what SAA was doing, the oil price, or Airports Company SA.

In late 2011 Novick left the low-cost airline — a concept he brought to SA — after the joint CEO position fell away. He joined Discovery as CEO of Vitality, going on to become head of digital. After a three-year stint there, he ditched corporate life...

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