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Tue, Aug 21, 2007

Report: Delta Picks Former Northwest Airlines CEO As Grinstein Successor

Richard Anderson Spent 14 Years With NWA, Two As Chief Exec

The question of who will succeed Gerald Grinstein as Chief Executive Officer of Delta Air Lines appears to have an answer. Numerous reports state Richard Anderson, who served as CEO of Northwest Airlines from 2002-2004, will be named as Delta's new CEO Tuesday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Anderson, 52, was named to Delta's new board of directors when the carrier emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April.

Anderson (right), currently executive vice-president at UnitedHealth Group, spent 14 years at Northwest, starting in the airline's legal department. He served as CEO as Northwest spiraled downward towards near-oblivion, in the face of high costs, low-fare competition, and the industry-wide post-9/11 downturn.

As ANN reported, both Northwest and Delta filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on the same day in September 2005.

The decision to name Anderson as CEO appears to contradict Grinstein's wish to have his successor picked from within Delta's current management structure, which along with Grinstein saw Delta through the torturous bankruptcy period, as well as its successful thwarting of a hostile takeover bid from US Airways. Ed Bastian, Delta's Chief Financial Officer, and COO Jim Whitehurst were seen as the most likely candidates.

Bastian will reportedly serve as President under Anderson, according to a report by branding consultant Jeremy C. Garlington, who also speculates Whitehurst will resign immediately.

Given Anderson's past history with Northwest, his appointment will likely fuel renewed speculation of a Delta/NWA merger down the line.

"It makes you wonder whether that facilitates discussions or frustrates them," airline consultant Robert Mann told The Wall Street Journal.

FMI: www.delta.com

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