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United Airlines Gets 3rd CEO in 2 Months -- Its GC, Brett Hart

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 21, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

United Airline's general counsel, Brett Hart, is taking over the reins of the airline for the time being. United's board of directors named Hart acting CEO on Monday, replacing Oscar Munoz, who took medical leave after suffering a heart attack last week.

Hart will be United's third CEO in under two months, responsible for guiding the airline through some -- ahem -- turbulent times.

Following Your Hart

Hart, a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, has over a decade of in-house experience under his belt. After working for a law firm and the U.S. Department of Treasury, Hart followed his heart to the corporate legal department, joining Sara Lee as assistant general counsel in 2003. By 2009, he had been promoted to executive vice president and general counsel, titles he carried over to United when he joined the airline in 2010.

At United, Hart was tasked with much more than just running the legal department. He was responsible for government and regulatory affairs, corporate real estate, customer experience, and other areas of United's operations, the company said in a statement announcing his appointment as CEO.

Third CEO's a Charm?

Hart is the third United CEO in just a matter of weeks. Oscar Munoz was named CEO 37 days earlier, following the resignation of United's former CEO Jeff Smisek. Smisek parachuted out of United amid federal investigations into the airline's dealings with Newark Airport. Smisek had pushed for lower rent and better facilities -- and the ability to build his own PATH extension. Hart is one of the few United senior executives without close ties to Smisek, The Wall Street Journal Reports.

The airline's announcement did not touch on Munoz's health or when he might be expected to return to the airline -- if he does at all. This isn't, however, Hart's first time covering for a sick boss. During his last year at Sandra Lee, Hart guided the company's legal department during CEO Brenda Barnes's medical leave. Then, it took nearly a month for the company to announce that she had suffered a stroke, according to the Journal. Barnes stepped down soon after and Hart headed over to United.

Hart will have his hands full at the helm of United. The second largest airline by volume, United has struggled with difficult labor negotiations, customer dissatisfaction, and technical glitches.

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