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UPDATE 5-United Airlines names general counsel as acting CEO
October 20, 2015 / 1:54 AM / in 2 years

UPDATE 5-United Airlines names general counsel as acting CEO

(Adds company comment, detail on Hart, background)
    By Jeffrey Dastin
    Oct 19 (Reuters) - United Continental Holdings Inc 
on Monday said it appointed an interim leader four days after
Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz suffered a heart attack,
raising uncertainty about whether its top official would return.
    The airline said its general counsel Brett Hart, 46, would
take on the role of acting chief executive officer, effective
immediately. It said it is too soon to know the course of
treatment Munoz will take or the timing of his recovery.
    The news marks the second CEO shake-up at United since early
September. In a news release, Hart vowed to continue an agenda
set by Munoz that has been aimed at rebuilding the company's
morale after years of strained labor relations.
    United, the second-largest U.S. airline by capacity, said in
a statement that its board "remains actively engaged in
preparing for all potential outcomes regarding the company's
leadership structure." A spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
    Hart will make his first presentation to investors as acting
chief on Thursday, when the company reports third-quarter
results. He joined United in 2010 after working as general
counsel of Sara Lee Corp, a consumer goods company.
    Munoz, 56, became CEO in September after predecessor Jeff
Smisek resigned in relation to internal and federal probes into
United's relationship with the Port Authority of New York and
New Jersey.
    Munoz spent his first month on the job traversing the United
States to meet with workers and air travelers for input on how
to improve the airline. Unions have welcomed Munoz, hoping he
would push the company to conclude contracts with flight
attendants and maintenance workers that have been stalled for
years.
    On Oct. 15, Munoz suffered a heart attack. United did not
disclose that Munoz was hospitalized until the Wall Street
Journal reported it the day after, and the company did not
confirm widespread reports of a heart attack until Monday night.
    The executive's family sent an email to United employees
earlier on Monday saying they expect Munoz to have a "healthy
recovery."
    The time lag of United's statements on Munoz's condition had
raised concern that United did not disclose information fast
enough.
    "It is the obligation of the company to keep the market
informed of material developments and this seems clearly
material to me," said John Coffee, a professor specializing in
corporate governance at Columbia University's law school.
    However, some shareholders said they understood the airline
needed time to ascertain the situation before making
disclosures.
   United's stock, which is down 15 percent this year, remained
nearly unchanged in after-market trade. 

    
 (Additional reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Jeffrey
Benkoe, Christian Plumb and Bernard Orr)

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