Continental and United Airlines late last month selected the
senior management team for the merged carrier, taking a blend of executives
from each airline to report directly to Continental CEO Jeff Smisek, who will
maintain the chief executive role and president title once the transaction
Stifel Nicolaus Capital Markets airline analyst Hunter Keay
said the appointments "generally skew towards existing Continental
Overseeing the sales organization will be Continental's Jim
Compton, who will maintain his role as chief marketing officer and to whom the
corporate sales force will report. Meanwhile, Jeff Foland, familiar to
corporate buyers as United's senior vice president of worldwide sales and
marketing, will become the head of the combined carrier's loyalty program.
Other appointments from United include Keith Halbert as
chief information officer, Pete McDonald as chief operations officer and Tom
Sabatino as general counsel. From Continental, Zane Rowe will be continue to be
CFO, Mike Bonds will head human resources and labor relations while Nene Foxhall
will take the helm for communications and government affairs.
As planned from the beginning, United CEO Glenn Tilton will
become non-executive chairman of the merged carrier.
The two airlines in a joint statement said the new
leadership team, along with Smisek, would flesh out the rest of the
organization, adding that they "are developing a talent-selection process
for other management and clerical roles and refining the planned organizational
Meanwhile, United said its president, John Tague, along with
CFO Kathryn Mikells, Mileage Plus president Graham Atkinson and senior vice
president of corporate and government affairs Rosemary Moore will leave once
the transaction is closed.
"We are somewhat surprised to see Jeff Smisek take over
the role of both president and CEO despite the fact that both companies have
had separate individuals in each position in the past," Keay said. "We
believe Mr. Tague or Ms. Mikells could have ably filled this position,"
attributing United's "liquidity turnaround" to Mikells and calling
Tague "well respected on Wall Street for United's revenue outperformance
and unbundling initiatives." Smisek ascended to the CEO post just this
year, replacing Larry Kellner, who left Continental for a private equity firm. "Smisek
has demonstrated a different managerial style since taking over for Larry
Kellner, and appears to be more aggressive and risk-taking than his
predecessor," Keay said.
Smisek and Tilton during separate second-quarter earnings
calls last month said they continue to expect the transaction to close before
year-end. Smisek said the companies have "several hundred people divided
into about 30 functional teams working on integration planning," while
both carriers are working with the U.S. departments of Transportation and
Justice to comply with pending reviews. Shareholder approval should come in the
September, Smisek said. "I remain confident that we will close the
transaction in the fourth quarter," he added.
This story originally
appeared in the August 9, 2010, edition of Business Travel News.