United Airlines names general counsel as acting CEO


United Continental Holdings Inc. named General Counsel Brett Hart as acting chief executive officer during a medical leave for Oscar Munoz, who suffered a heart attack last week after little more than a month on the job. It’s still too early to determine “the course and treatment” of Munoz’s recovery after he was stricken on Oct 15, United said Monday in a statement. “The board of directors remains actively engaged in preparing for all potential outcomes regarding the company’s leadership structure.” The appointment damps some of the speculation swirling around United since the airline confirmed Friday that Munoz, 56, had been hospitalised. But with details about Munoz’s condition still not disclosed and the board keeping its options open, United hasn’t settled all the questions about its next steps. Hart takes over immediately, United said. He will work with Henry L. Meyer III, United’s non-executive chairman. Hart joined United in 2010 and oversees areas that include government and regulatory affairs, corporate real estate and customer experience, according to the airline. His career includes stints at Sara Lee and the US Treasury Department. His role as general counsel makes him a crucial figure in one of United’s biggest challenges: navigating the US investigation into the airline’s ties to the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey - a probe that triggered the dismissal of Munoz’s predecessor, Jeff Smisek. “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,” Hart said in the statement. In his short tenure as CEO, Munoz has confronted not only the turmoil generated by the federal inquiry but United’s existing struggles with union integration and computer breakdowns since being created in the 2010 merger between former United parent UAL Corp. and Continental Airlines Inc. Munoz was a United director and the president of railroad CSX Corp. before fellow board members tapped him to succeed Smisek. The Munoz family sent a note to United workers thanking them for their support and words of encouragement. “We look forward to a healthy recovery,” the family said in the message posted on an internal employee website. (By Michael Sasso/Bloomberg)

More from Business News