United Airlines boss Jeff Smisek has left the company with immediate effect, following a company investigation into an ongoing federal probe.
Smisek is stepping down alongside United's executive vice president of communications and government affairs Nene Foxhall and its senior vice president of corporate and government affairs Mark R. Anderson.
“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,” United said. “The investigations are ongoing and the company continues to cooperate with the government.
“The company’s internal investigation and the related circumstances do not raise any accounting or financial reporting concerns.”
The probe relates to the Bridgegate investigation into claims that aides and associates of New Jersey governor Chris Christie colluded to create traffic jams in New Jersey. It is claimed that the George Washington Bridge was closed as retribution against a Democract who did not endorse Christie's re-election as governor in 2013.
Both the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, New Jersey, have been investigating David Samson, the former chairman of the Port Authority. Among the allegations being investigated by the government are that Samson used his position to get United re-instate a loss-making service from Newark to South Carolina, near to a home he owned, in return for improvements the airline wanted at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Smisek, who was chairman, president and chief executive, is being handed a $4.8m “separation payment”. His annual salary last year was $12.7m.
United has named Oscar Munoz as chief executive and president in his stead, with independent director Henry L Meyer III stepping up to become non-executive chairman.
“Munoz brings to this role deep and broad experience in the transportation industry and large consumer brands including AT&T, Pepsico and The Coca-Cola Company. He most recently served as president and chief operating officer of CSX Corporation,” United said.
Meyer added: “Oscar’s track record demonstrates that he has the right blend of strategic vision and strong leadership to continue United’s upward trajectory... The board thanks Jeff for his service to both United Airlines and Continental Airlines.”