UAL Corp., the parent of United Airlines, on Thursday chose its president, James E. Goodwin, to be chairman and chief executive. He'll take over running the nation's largest airline, and its largest employee-controlled company, in July.
The 54-year-old United veteran will succeed the retiring Gerald Greenwald, a former auto executive who has led the carrier since its employees acquired a 55% stake in the company in exchange for wage and work-rule concessions in 1994.
Goodwin was tapped over another auto executive, Louis R. Hughes of General Motors Corp. Hughes is GM's executive vice president of new business strategies.
But neither might have had a shot at the job had UAL's powerful employee unions not opposed the promotion of John A. Edwardson, UAL's former president and chief operating officer.
Edwardson was seen as Greenwald's heir apparent. But in September, after it became clear that he didn't have the unions' blessing to be CEO, Edwardson abruptly resigned. UAL then named Goodwin to his positions.
Goodwin, who joined United in 1967, will inherit a thriving airline whose 580 jetliners and 95,000 employees fly an average 238,000 people daily to 102 domestic and 37 foreign cities. Its hub cities include Chicago (where it's based), Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
But he also faces major hurdles, including the expiration next year of key labor contracts and the employee stock ownership plan that gave the workers majority ownership of the airline.
UAL's stock closed Thursday at $76.81, up $3.31, on the New York Stock Exchange.
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