View Full Version : Continental's Bethune to retire

Shore Guy
16th Jan 2004, 13:53
IMHO, one of the the finest managers ever in at a US airline.....

Continental's CEO to Retire, Director Also to Leave
Friday January 16, 12:46 am ET

Continental Airlines Chairman and Chief Executive Gordon Bethune will retire
at the end of this year, earlier than expected, following a long-running
feud with one of the company's most powerful directors, Friday's Wall Street
Journal reported.

Director David Bonderman, the financier who led the airline out of
bankruptcy a decade ago, will leave the company's board after the company's
annual meeting in March.
People familiar with the matter said Continental will announce today that
President Larry Kellner, 44 years old, will succeed Mr. Bethune when he
retires effective Dec. 31.

Mr. Bethune, who engineered Continental's remarkable turnaround following
its second bankruptcy, had been scheduled to retire on his 65th birthday in
August 2006. He also is credited with steering Continental skillfully
through the recent airline financial crisis at a time when the company found
itself with high debt, skimpy cash and no ability to borrow. He is the last
CEO directing a major airline who was in place during the devastating Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Spokesmen for Continental and for Mr. Bonderman declined to comment late
Thursday night.

Almost since Mr. Bonderman named Mr. Bethune chief executive in 1994, the
two have clashed over corporate issues, and have little personal fondness
for each other.

Gordon Bethune to retire as CEO, chairman of Continental
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

Gordon Bethune will retire as chairman and chief executive of Continental
Airlines at the end of 2004, sources familiar with the situation told the
Houston Chronicle Thursday night.

Continental will announce this morning that Bethune will leave the company
on Dec. 31 and Larry Kellner, the company president, will become chairman
and chief executive on Jan. 1, 2005.

In addition, David Bonderman, Pat Foley, Richard Pogue and William Price
will not stand for re-election to the airline's board of directors. That
will reduce the size of the board from 14 members to 10.

Continental spokesman David Messing declined to comment on the changes.

Bethune, who will celebrate his 10th anniversary at Continental on
Valentine's Day, has been widely heralded as having turned the
once-struggling airline around.

Bethune, 62, joined the airline from Boeing Co. after the carrier emerged
from its second bankruptcy in a decade. At the time, it ranked last in the
industry in most categories.

Within several years, however, the Texas native put in place a system
largely focused on customer service that improved Continental's standing in
virtually all categories.

Airline analyst Michael Boyd said recently that Bethune found a winning way
for operating an airline and he stuck to his guns.

"He has focused on the basics of being an airline," Boyd said. "The
airplanes are clean, the airplanes are on time, and you can see it."

Bethune also has been controversial, however. He was widely criticized for
receiving a large compensation package last year, even though the airline
industry was going through one of its worst periods ever.

And when one of the airlines' unions attacked Bonderman last year, Bethune
issued a statement defending the longtime board member.

Employee-shareholder members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters
called for Bonderman's resignation, alleging Bonderman has a conflict of
interest caused by financial investment, interest and control in Continental

They also cited concern about a recent stock sale involving Bonderman, who
has been on the board of directors for about a decade.

Bethune said last month that one of his fervent beliefs is that, first and
foremost, being honest with employees.

"You have got to tell everybody the truth," he said. "You get a lot more

He has also maintained that he has surrounded himself with the best
employees he can find and let them run things.

Bethune said he recruited Kellner to the airline in 1995 as senior vice
president and its chief financial officer because he believed he was the
best CFO in the country. The additional title of executive vice president
was added a year later.

Kellner, 44, was named president and elected to the board in May 2001 and
given the additional responsibilities of chief operating officer in March

Jay Panarello, master executive chairman for Continental pilots, said he
thinks Bethune has an opportunity to leave a legacy of good labor relations,
if a new contract can be hammered out with the pilots by the end of the

After being on hiatus recently, talks between management and labor are
getting under way this month.

16th Jan 2004, 18:27
Saw him address ISTAT in Phoenix last year - inspirational and very very amusing. He'll easily make a second career as a stand-up comic! Good man: sorry to see him go.