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

MILAN Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:45am BST

Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio speaks during a news conference at the Wrooom, F1 and MotoGP Press Ski Meeting, Ducati and Ferrari's annual media gathering, in Madonna di Campiglio January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Ducati CEO Gabriele Del Torchio speaks during a news conference at the Wrooom, F1 and MotoGP Press Ski Meeting, Ducati and Ferrari's annual media gathering, in Madonna di Campiglio January 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

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MILAN (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 $367 million in 2012.

Alitalia, 25 percent owned by Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA), 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 (VOWG_p.DE) 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 (ISP.MI), road operator Atlantia (ATL.MI) and IMMSI (IMSI.MI), which also controls scooter maker Piaggio (PIA.MI).

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)