The long-anticipated news finally dropped yesterday that Delta’s board of directors had picked Richard Anderson to be CEO. Rumors had been swirling for months, and it appears that the board has decided to assert itself here over the wishes of current management.
Who is this guy? Well, he played MacGuyver in the 80’s and 90’s. Oops, wrong Richard Anderson. This Anderson ran the show at Northwest for a couple years earlier this decade (he started a few months before 9/11) before he took off for greener pastures outside the industry. When he was at Northwest, it appears he was well-liked by the rank and file, but I’m not sure what his big accomplishments were. He clearly wasn’t able to keep them from sliding into bankruptcy within a year or so after he left. When he was brought on as a board member at Delta earlier this year, the speculation about his rise to CEO began.
So this really isn’t a surprise, but it is definitely the board’s choice. Outgoing CEO Jerry Grinstein (so long Jerry, you’ll be missed) had tried to assemble a succession plan with his lieutenants – Ed Bastian and Jim Whitehurst. But the board didn’t go for it, and that could be tough for the front line to swallow. Remember, the deflected US Airways takeover along with the exit from bankruptcy that involved bonuses and raises for everyone really got people behind the current management team. Delta has never taken kindly to outsiders at the very top, so this could be an interesting adjustment for the airline.
The head of the pilots union has already brought out a letter to the troops saying that he is “encouraged by my initial conversations,” but “be mindful of the old Russian proverb “Doveryay, no proveryay” – Trust but verify.” We’ll see how this develops, but right now this has to be a bit of a jolt to those working at the airline.
By the way, Bastian won’t be going anywhere. He’ll be President of the airline. Whitehurst, meanwhile, has a more interesting path ahead. Some say he’s out, others say he’s not. One thing we do know is that Delta alum Fred Reid has been kicked out of his job at Virgin America and they need a CEO. . . . Interesting.