United Airlines has an “acting CEO” to turn the company around amid strained employee relations, a federal investigation of Jeff Smisek and a hospitalized Smisek replacement. Brett Hart surely has his hands full. It’s an uphill battle for him however, the future of the company had been thrust upon Hart and hopefully he will be able to perform his duties as “acting CEO” with minimal interference and yield positive results. Best of luck him!!
Read more as reported by Chicago Business:
At United Airlines, the buck now stops with Brett Hart—at least for now.
Chicago-based United said in a statement this evening that its board of directors named Hart acting CEO while Oscar Munoz, the company’s previous CEO, takes a medical leave after suffering a heart attack last week.
Hart, 46, previously served as general counsel and executive vice president at United. He’s well-known in Chicago’s business world, having worked as general counsel and corporate secretary at Sara Lee.
“Brett has taken on increasing responsibility beyond general counsel over the last few years in the operations and customer facing areas of the company,” Henry Meyer, non-executive chairman of the United board said in a statement. “I am confident in his ability to continue to implement the company’s strategy and Oscar’s mission of bringing United’s people together around the shared purpose of becoming the best airline for our customers and employees.”
The statement added that the company’s board remains “actively engaged in preparing for all potential outcomes regarding the company’s leadership structure.”
Hart takes over leadership of United during a turbulent moment for the airline. On Sept. 8, Jeff Smisek, the firm’s previous CEO, left the firm amid a federal investigation into the airline’s actions at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Munoz, an executive at railroad company CSX, was appointed to the chief executive role, and had focused the early part of his tenure on improving management’s relationship with the carrier’s workforce and seeking feedback from employees and customers on how the airline could improve.
On Oct. 15, however, Munoz, 56, had a heart attack, according to United’s statement, sidelining him from his duties.
Now, the task falls to Hart to turn around United, which suffered from embarrassing technical glitches that grounded flights this summer and has lagged behind rivals in operations, such as on-time arrivals. The company has never fully realized the promise of the 2010 merger between United and Continental airlines, many analysts believe.
“Oscar’s agenda is focused on customer service, teamwork and innovation and I, along with the executive team, will continue to move quickly to implement it,” said Hart. “We believe strongly that we can continue to make steady progress on increasing shareholder value by working together to deliver a great product to our customers.”
Hart’s career as included stints at the law firm then called Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and at the U.S. Department of Treasury. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
As acting CEO, Hart will be thrust into a high-profile role quickly, given the cascade of leadership changes that have hit United over the last five weeks, creating uncertainty for the company. He also has his first earnings call, for the third quarter, to handle this Thursday.
Meanwhile, Munoz’s future with United is unclear. The company’s statement Monday said nothing about his recovery time.
The Munoz family recently released a statement to the Association of Flight Attendants that said “we continue to read your words of encouragement and know that our spirits remain high as we look forward to a healthy recovery,” according to an email the union sent to members.
Source: Chicago Business