In early September Jeff Smisek stepped down as United CEO, following the scandal involving the Chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Smisek was replaced by Oscar Munoz, who seems like a good guy who genuinely wants to change United for the better. Unfortunately Munoz suffered a heart attack about a month into his tenure, and the airline has understandably been tight-lipped about his condition (which is fair enough, as he and his family deserve some privacy during this time).
Today United’s board of directors decided on whether to appoint a replacement CEO, given that it’s uncertain when Munoz will be able to return to work.
United Continental Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: UAL) today announced that its president and CEO, Oscar Munoz, is on medical leave following a heart attack he suffered on Oct. 15, 2015. At this time, it is too soon to know the course of treatment and timing of recovery. The UAL board of directors has named Brett J. Hart, currently United’s executive vice president and general counsel, as acting CEO. This appointment is effective immediately.
In addition to serving as United’s general counsel, Hart has been responsible for government and regulatory affairs, corporate real estate, customer experience, corporate security, community affairs, contact centers and food services. Prior to joining United in 2010, Hart served as executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Sara Lee, partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, and special assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Treasury. Hart has a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and English from the University of Michigan and a juris doctorate degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
Hart will work closely with Henry L. Meyer III, non-executive chairman of the board, and United’s experienced executive team to run the company in Munoz’s absence.
“Brett has taken on increasing responsibility beyond general counsel over the last few years in the operations and customer facing areas of the company. 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,” said Meyer.
“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.”
The board of directors remains actively engaged in preparing for all potential outcomes regarding the company’s leadership structure.
First of all, good luck to Oscar Munoz for his recovery, and best of luck to Brett Hart for his new role. It’ll be interesting to see whether Hart will just take on the role as interim CEO, or if it’s likely to be a permanent placement.
What do you think of the choice of Hart as CEO, and do you think it’ll be permanent or just as Munoz recovers?