United Airlines parent UAL Corp. named James E. Goodwin, a 32-year company veteran, its new president and chief operating officer, succeeding John A. Edwardson, who abruptly resigned last week after the airline's unions made it clear he would not be an acceptable candidate for chairman.
The appointment, approved by United's board last weekend and announced Tuesday, puts Goodwin, 54, in line to succeed United Chairman Gerald Greenwald if Greenwald decides to retire when his contract expires next year.
Christopher D. Bowers, 50, was named to succeed Goodwin as senior vice president in charge of United's North American operations.
Company sources said the promotions were not a surprise and that both men would have been elevated had Edwardson become chairman when Greenwald retired.
Edwardson's resignation came after union officials complained that they believed he was too quick to cut wages and benefits when seeking ways to slash airline costs.
Labor's views are critical since United is the nation's largest employee-owned corporation, with employees owning 55% of the company's stock. The employees have three seats on the 12-member board of directors and have majority voting rights on such issues as the appointment of top corporate officers.
Goodwin's appointment was hailed by the United pilots union. "We're looking forward to working with Mr. Goodwin to make real changes in United's corporate culture and to provide the leadership and motivation that will capture the opportunities inherent in an employee-owned airline," said Air Line Pilots Assn. spokeswoman Kathy White.
The International Assn. of Machinists, which holds a board seat, had no comment Tuesday. The airline's other major union, the Assn. of Flight Attendants, which does not have a board seat, could not be reached for comment. Salaried employees hold the third board seat.
In an internal message to United employees, Goodwin pledged to continue working to transform the company culture from a management-led company to one largely controlled by employees.
Goodwin, who has spent his entire career at United, held a variety of managerial jobs in almost every area of the corporation before being named senior vice president for North America in 1995. Bowers also is a career United employee. He joined the airline in 1973 as an air freight supervisor and worked his way up to the head of United's international division in 1995.
UAL shares rose $2 to close at $70.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.