GLOBAL ECONOMY

Report: New United CEO Oscar Munoz hospitalized after heart attack

Undated file photo provided by United Airlines shows the company's CEO, Oscar Munoz.

Undated file photo provided by United Airlines shows the company's CEO, Oscar Munoz.

Barely in his new position as United Airlines president and CEO, Oscar Munoz was admitted to a Chicago hospital on Thursday after suffering a heart attack.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the company’s directors were told about the attack Thursday night, a person familiar with the situation told the financial publication.

As of Friday, the directors were waiting to be informed about the severity of his condition. “It could be a mild heart attack, and he could be back in two weeks,” the person said. There is the possibility that an interim CEO would be named depending on how long Munoz, 56, is incapacitated.

The company issued a statement Friday saying it had been “informed by Oscar’s family that he was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, and we will provide further details as appropriate. In the meantime, we are continuing to operate normally.”

It did not respond to Associated Press requests for additional comment.

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Munoz was named CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc. on Sept. 9 after the company made a stunning announcement that CEO Jeff Smisek had stepped down. Smisek faced questions about whether United sought favors from the officials who operate the New York-area airports.

Federal prosecutors are investigating United's ties to David Samson, the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a political ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Munoz was a railroad executive who had spent 11 years on the boards of Continental and United Continental, which was formed by a 2010 merger of the two airlines.

Married with four children, Munoz told the Journal in a Sept. 30 interview that he’s an avid surfer since his youth, and that used to run marathons.

In a newspaper ad this month, Munoz apologized to customers for problems that have plagued United since the merger, including technology outages that have caused large-scale flight delays and cancelations. United's on-time performance has trailed its three biggest competitors — American, Delta and Southwest — so far this year.

In the ad, Munoz said United had failed to live up to its promises and vowed, "That's going to change."

He has offered few details, however. On an introductory conference call with Wall Street analysts last month, Munoz said United must convince customers that it will improve customer service but added, "That is going to take a lot of time and effort." Since then, he has been meeting with some of United's 85,000 workers around the country.

While United was slower to return to profitability after the financial crisis that began in 2008, it has posted record profits recently, helped by cheaper jet fuel. The Chicago-based company earned $1.7 billion in the first six months of 2015, although revenue slipped 2.6 percent.

Munoz was expected to announce his first quarterly earnings as CEO on Oct. 22.

United shares fell after news of Munoz' hospitalization. In afternoon trading, shares were down $1.96, or 3.4 percent, to $55.80.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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