The Last Days of Sabena

BRUSSELS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT COMPANY

Sabena's 50th Anniversary exhibition poster

It was a gamble, one of those hugely risky decisions that can make or break a company — and in this case broke it. In late 1997, the Belgian airline Sabena was poised to order 17 new Airbus planes, to renew and expand its fleet of 37. At the last minute, the order mysteriously doubled to 34 aircraft. The price tag would be $1 billion — five times the company's entire capital at the time. Even more surprisingly, Sabena's board of directors had neither a business plan justifying the higher number nor a watertight financing arrangement in place when they...

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