Shake Up At United Airlines After Merger With Continental Airlines


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Shake Up At United Airlines After Merger With Continental Airlines

Mike Mitchell

July 28, 2010 - United Airlines has announced that John Tague, president of United Airlines, and Kathryn Mikells, chief financial officer, will leave the company following the close of its planned merger with Continental Airlines.

Additionally, United announced that Graham Atkinson, president of Mileage Plus and Rosemary Moore, senior vice president of corporate and government affairs, also are leaving the company upon close of the merger.

?John's vision for what is possible and his ability to lead consistent performance improvement have changed the way we operate and transformed our competitive position and trajectory.? United Chairman and CEO Glenn Tilton, who will become non-executive chairman of the new company, said:


?We are fortunate at United to have built an exceptional management team, focused on creating a strong company that will benefit our customers, our shareholders and our people. We are doing that, and our full management team will continue to execute against our performance agenda for the next several months. On the occasion of the proposed merger with Continental, this team that will leave the company following close does so with the appreciation of our board, our colleagues and all our stakeholders, for their significant contributions.?  

Jim O?Connor, United?s lead director who has served on the United board for 26 years, noted that the leadership team Tilton put together at United shares a commitment to returning United to industry leadership.  

"The enthusiasm and ?can do? spirit of this management team helped to produce breakthrough gains at United during one of the toughest periods in the company's history. Never satisfied with the status quo, this team has given all of us a glimpse of just how good we can become,? O?Connor said.  

Tague joined the company in 2003 while United was restructuring under Chapter 11 protection as executive vice president of customer and has held several leadership positions, including chief operating officer. As president, he has P&L responsibility for the airline and has all airline management functions. Additionally, he has all revenue and customer responsibilities.


In the last year, United has delivered a $1.2 billion revenue improvement, generated a $750 million profit improvement, tightly managed its costs and increased its margin by 16 points, delivering the industry?s leading profit margin year to date. Since assuming his current responsibilities, United?s customer satisfaction has improved by 70 percent domestically and on-time performance has gone from worst to first -- United continues to lead the network carriers in on-time performance, a position it held for the full year 2009.  

"John has played a critical and unique role in the dramatic turnaround of United. To effect the magnitude of change required to be successful, we have been unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom and to be bold in our decisions -- and John personifies those characteristics," Tilton said. "John's vision for what is possible and his ability to lead consistent performance improvement have changed the way we operate and transformed our competitive position and trajectory."  

?Without a doubt, my time with United is my most professionally rewarding experience to date. Being a member of the team that successfully led United through a $23 billion restructuring provided me with a foundational experience to build upon and help United achieve its potential. Receiving the mandate to create a step change in United?s performance gave me the opportunity to rethink the way we do business, drive systemic improvement and build a phenomenal management team that is continuing to innovate and delivering industry-leading results,? said Tague.  

"With the proposed merger with Continental, United will once again be the world's leading airline, and we will have achieved what we set out to do for our people, our investors, our customers and the communities we serve. This will be, for me personally, the perfect time to move on to the next challenge in my career, knowing that United is set on the best course for long-term success and a strong future."  

Kathryn Mikells joined United in 1994 and has held numerous leadership positions. As CFO, she oversees all corporate finance functions and also is responsible for mergers and acquisitions, fleet planning, corporate development and strategy and investor relations. She played a significant role in United?s restructuring, helping to coordinate the case, and as treasurer restructured the company?s debt portfolio and ensured it had the financing needed to exit.  

As the head of investor relations, she helped reposition United with the financial analysts and investors. She was named CFO when United faced significant financial challenges, including high oil prices and dealing with the effect of a devastating recession, and led the company?s efforts to increase its cash, improve its hedge book, order new aircraft and negotiate a merger with Continental.  

?Kathryn has become one of the best CFOs in any industry and has been my partner in the pursuit and negotiation of the deal that delivered the best merger partner, on the best terms, for our company. Kathryn?s considerable skills are a perfect match to her role leading strategy work, which included consolidation and risk management at United, and she drove the extraordinary improvement in our liquidity position as we worked through the financial crisis, including establishing the best fuel hedge book in the industry,? Tilton said.  

?In all of her assignments, Kathryn has consistently performed at the highest level and set the stage for those who followed her. She will play an important role as we continue to improve our competitive position and in the integration of our two companies through the steering committee.?  

?I am proud to have played a pivotal role in United?s extraordinary turnaround and the merger that will create the world?s preeminent airline. I have always been energized by the positive attitude of our management team, especially during challenging times in our industry, and the finance team is no exception,? Mikells said.  

?From raising $4 billion in financings to supporting the work that has delivered the best cost reductions in the business, the team has been focused on taking the right actions to turn our performance around and our second quarter results are the clear evidence of that work. I look forward to building on the experiences of the last 16 years and take with me the strong relationships developed with colleagues, investors and with the financial community. I can?t imagine leaving on a higher note, and look forward to the next chapter of my career.?  

Graham Atkinson joined United in 1991 and has held key customer-facing leadership roles, including senior vice president of Worldwide Sales and Alliances, senior vice president of International, senior vice president of Marketing, and most recently president of Mileage Plus, where he is responsible for developing Mileage Plus as a stand-alone business and ensuring that United is well positioned to address the changing landscape of loyalty programs and meet the needs of the company's most loyal customers.  

?Graham has been a passionate advocate for the voice of the customer at United. His breadth of experience in all aspects of the customer proposition ? from marketing, sales, the customer experience and loyalty programs ? has been of great benefit to United as we have prioritized and repositioned our customer focus,? said Tilton. ?In his role with our alliance partners and in the development of our international business, Graham has also been instrumental in building important relationships that have afforded us the opportunity to grow our global presence with the best partners in the industry.?  

?United is a dramatically different company today than it was even five years ago. We have extended our network and our partnerships worldwide. We have changed the way we sell our product, transforming our sales force and delivery channels, and, most importantly, are putting the customer front and center,? Atkinson said. ?We have built the industry?s best loyalty program in Mileage Plus, which will only get better for our customers upon our merger with Continental, extending earning and redeeming possibilities.?  

Rosemary Moore Moore joined United in 2002, having worked with Tilton at Texaco and Chevron. Moore has led efforts to support business objectives and enhance the company?s image and reputation through government relations, corporate responsibility and strategic communications, including media relations, employee communications and investor relations.  

?Rosemary?s ability to connect across constituents and leverage opportunities to build relationships and further our business agenda and reputation has done much to change the perception and credibility of our company,? Tilton said.  

?Having worked closely with Rosemary at Texaco and at Chevron after the merger, and knowing her extensive experience in other industries with significant challenges, she was my first hire at United, bringing with her much-needed capability and sound judgment to our communications and interactions with our key stakeholders. Rosemary played a key role as we moved through our highly visible and complex restructuring, took on tough industry issues that constrained our ability to meet our goals and made equally tough decisions to transform our company.?  

?There is no other industry that has the unique challenges of the airline industry and working with Glenn and the team to transform United and, at the same time, relentlessly press for industry reform, has been work I enjoy,? Moore said. ?There is nothing better than working on difficult issues with a great team, and it is terrific to see all that we have accomplished and go on to another opportunity to contribute.?


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