The world’s second-largest airline has shed three top executives, including its CEO, due to internal and external investigations—and is playing its external communications close to the vest.
United Continental Holdings’ CEO, Jeff Smisek, stepped down Tuesday in light of a federal investigation into the airline’s relationship with David Samson, the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Smisek wasn’t the only executive to leave the organization on Tuesday. Reuters reported the departures of United’s executive vice president of communications and government affairs, Irene Foxhall, and its senior vice president of corporate and government affairs, Mark Anderson.
United released the following statement and confirmed the departures were tied to the current investigation, but it refused to discuss any details about the investigation’s findings:
The departures announced today are in connection with the company’s previously disclosed internal investigation related to the federal investigation associated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The investigations are ongoing and the company continues to cooperate with the government.
The Huffington Post further explained the reason for the investigation:
Federal prosecutors are probing United’s ties to David Samson, the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. United began a direct flight between Newark, New Jersey, and Columbia, South Carolina, where Samson has a summer home, while he was chairman and ended it days after he resigned last year. United, the dominant airline at Newark Liberty International Airport, was negotiating with the Port Authority over projects at the airport at the same time.
United announced that Oscar Munoz will succeed Smisek as the company’s CEO. Munoz issued the following statement:
It is truly a privilege to serve as United’s CEO. United has an incredible opportunity for improving an experience that is essential to the vitality of global business and to the personal lives of millions of people, for innovation, and for earnings growth. In my years serving on the board, I have been impressed by the dedication and skill of my new coworkers. Together, we will make United the top-performing airline.
Smisek, Foxhall and Anderson have not given any statements.
According to Reuters, Smisek will receive $4.9 million as separation pay, along with roughly $3.5 million in stock. United’s shares were down 2.8 percent at the end of the trading day Tuesday.