Regulatory filings today indicate that United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, won’t become chairman of the board in 2018, as was originally expected. This is a reversal of his previous employment agreement, as he’s now leaving “future determinations related to the Chairman position to the discretion of the Board.” I suppose that means they could still appoint him chairman of the board if they so choose, but it’s no longer a sure thing.
A reason wasn’t given for this change in direction. Some are suggesting that this is related to the horrible few weeks that United has had, as David Dao was dragged off a United flight, and United handled the situation horribly. We have heard that United’s board stands behind him, given the calls from some for Oscar to resign. Of course that’s what they said publicly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what’s being said behind closed doors.
While it’s certainly possible that this is related to the “dragging” incident, let’s also keep in mind that Munoz suffered a heart attack in October 2015, and it’s pretty amazing how quickly he returned to work, given that he had a heart transplant. It could be that he doesn’t want to expand his role at the airline, and might retire sooner than he initially expected. United poached American’s president, Scott Kirby, last year, presumably with the intention of eventually making him CEO.
Only time will tell.