August 18, 2016 / 1:52 PM / 2 years ago

United Air names new CFO, chief commercial officer in shuffle

(Reuters) - United Continental Holdings Inc (UAL.N) said on Thursday it appointed a new chief financial officer and chief commercial officer in the first major management shuffle since Oscar Munoz took the helm of the airline last September.

A United Airlines Boeing 787 taxis as a United Airlines Boeing 767 lands at San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, February 7, 2015. REUTERS/Louis Nastro/File Photo

United, the No. 3 U.S. airline by passenger traffic, named Andrew Levy its CFO, filling a job that has been vacant for more than a year. Levy had multiple roles including CFO at low-cost airline Allegiant Travel Co (ALGT.O).

United also said Julia Haywood, a former Boston Consulting Group partner, was named chief commercial officer (CCO). Chief Revenue Officer Jim Compton will retire at the end of 2016, the airline said. Haywood’s role will be the same as Compton’s despite the change in title.

The moves are the latest attempt by United and its reshuffled board to shape a new strategy and boost its stock price. The airline has lagged larger rival Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) in on-time arrivals and profit margins.

“The older blood, within the airline industry, was seen as potentially negative,” said Craig Juran of Denver Investments, who manages a fund with a stake in United. Levy “fits the description where he’s in the industry, but he’s not 100 percent in the industry. He’s a little bit different.”

PAR Capital Management Inc partner Edward Shapiro won a seat on United’s board following the hedge fund’s activist campaign last spring, and the fund was a major Allegiant shareholder during Levy’s time.

Allegiant’s stock more than quadrupled by the time Levy departed in 2014 from its 2006 initial public offering price, which industry observers attributed to his efforts.

“He is a colorful guy who doesn’t shy from bluntly speaking his mind,” Wolfe Research analyst Hunter Keay said in a note. “The question is, can he find a balance of challenging the status quo with fresh ideas while ‘conforming’ to a more structured corporate culture?

“Given (United’s) spotty track record over the last few years, it seems like it’s worth the calculated risk.”

One industry consultant said it was unlikely that Levy would usher in blockbuster growth similar to Allegiant’s.

Levy “had a situation out there that had unrealistically and unmaintainable low costs,” said consultant Robert Mann. “It won’t be a story like that going forward.”

United’s shares dropped nearly 2 percent to $47.24. In the last 12 months, shares are down 19 percent.

The CCO is responsible for developing strategies for pricing, routes and product development that drive growth.

Haywood recently worked on a revenue and network transformation project for United and has consulted for more than a dozen airlines.

Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe

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