Just a month and a half after Oscar Munoz became United’s CEO following the sudden departure of Jeff Smisek, he has already been replaced — although perhaps only temporarily.
Munoz was rushed to the hospital last week after reportedly suffering a heart attack, and United’s board scrambled to decide how to reshuffle management in the wake of that crisis. Apparently hindered by a lack of information about Munoz’ condition and how long he might be incapacitated, they decided to appoint an acting CEO: Brett Hart, who was formerly United’s executive vice president and general counsel. He is 46 years old; Munoz is 56.
Many United loyalists had hoped that Munoz would start to repair the airline’s reputation for poor customer service and its unenviable record of operational performance — something he repeatedly promised to do as he flew around the system meeting with employees.
In his first public statement since becoming acting CEO, Hart promised to keep up that effort. On the company’s new unitedairtime.com website — set up to improve communications with customers and employees — Hart issued a post with the title “We can’t stop now.”
In it, he said: “I can assure you that we will continue the focus on providing employees the tools that they need to give our customers great service, and on intently listening to what our customers need and expect. We will not only continue to listen to your feedback, but in the coming days we will be announcing some of the changes that have come from your feedback.”
Hart has been with United for five years. Before that, he was at Sara Lee, also as executive vp and general counsel. He has also worked at a law firm and the U.S. Treasury Department. Hart earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and English from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
Wall Street seems a little skeptical of the move: The Chicago Tribune reports that analyst Jim Corridore of S&P Capital IQ said, “Mr. Hart has limited experience in finance, operations or customer service, the areas that United Continental is most in need of improving. We would have preferred an interim leader with more experience in these areas.”
It should make for an interesting earnings call on Thursday with the new guy at the helm!
What do you think of this shake up at United? Can the airline survive this type of tumult? Please leave your comments below.
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