Continental Airlines elevates new Chairman, CEO set for 2010
Continental Airlines announced the succession of current President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Smisek into the role of chairman and chief executive officer, effective Jan.1, 2010, according to the company
Smisek will succeed Larry Kellner, who has decided to return to private equity at year-end after 14 years with Continental. He has spent the last five years in his current leadership capacity.
Kellner said in a company release that he has worked closely with Smisek throughout his tenure and that he is confident in Smisek’s abilities to be a strong and effective leader in his absence.
“The Board has consistently focused on succession planning, and Jeff’s experience, skills and long partnership with Larry make him the ideal executive to succeed Larry as chairman and CEO,” Lead Director Henry Meyer said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Jeff as he continues Continental’s industry leadership.”
Houston, Texas-based Continental Airlines is a certified air carrier offering flight destinations throughout the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia-Pacific .The company's three main operational hubs include Houston, Cleveland, Ohio and Newark, N.J.
Director of Public Relations Julie King spoke further with WinmoEdge about the leadership succession plan at Continental Airlines
She reiterated that Kellner and Smisek have worked hand-in-hand for the past five years, and have both been with the company since 1995. Though they came in with different roles and responsibilities, they have spent the last few years readying Continental for Smisek’s assumption of the ultimate leadership role.
“Continental has a long history of having a solid succession planning culture, and we have a proven track record of developing talent,” King said. “Jeff and Larry have been partners and have been involved in every major decision that the company has made. So this is not really some new person that’s never worked here before, it’s someone who’s been working very closely as a team with Larry and we really expect a smooth transition.”
King added that she expects everything to run smoothly, especially with regards to the Continental company culture, its business and the direction that the business is taking at this time.
“Jeff has had several roles since he’s been at Continental,” she said. “He has overseen marketing and sales, operations, technology, and he started on as general counsel, so he’s overseen legal and government communication. He’s got broad experience and he’s very well-respected, not only by employees but by investors as well.”
King said that Continental sees Smisek continuing the same “Go Forward Plan” which is a strategy that outlines the cornerstones of the business. A company newsletter said that the “Go Forward Plan” is Continental’s “blueprint for success.”
“This evolving, four-point plan helps the company define and communicate its goals,” the newsletter goes on to say. “Since its inception in 1995, the ‘Go Forward Plan’ has catapulted the company to new heights of service excellence and record financial performance compared to its network competitors.”
King said that because the final transition will not take place until Jan. 1, 2010, Smisek’s level of involvement in marketing-related decisions will be worked out as the year goes on, prior to him taking on the leadership function.
Our source said that Continental utilizes quite a bit of digital, print, out-of-home, sponsorships as well as some broadcast – television and radio – advertising in an effort to target frequent business travelers and international business travelers.
She added that New York-based The Kaplan Thaler Group, Ltd. serves as its agency of record, and added that the company also works with Minneapolis-based The Lacek Group, New York-based Tarragon Marketing Group and New York-based MediaVest Worldwide.
King said that Continental Airlines actively engages in strategic partnerships and alliances.
The Nielsen Company reported that Continental spent about $21.1 million on national advertising in 2008. About $5.2 million was spent on national magazine ads, $5.1 million was spent on Internet ads and about $3.8 million was spent on outdoor ads.
Agencies should consider reaching out to discuss strategic partnerships or sponsorship opportunities with Continental Airlines. Given Smisek’s extensive knowledge of the company, and his background in marketing, he may have complete oversight of that department, which could lead to some changes moving forward, but it is a bit too soon to determine that just yet.
Continental Airlines, Inc.
1600 Smith Street
Houston, TX 77002
Executive Vice President, Marketing
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer