Einstein’s revenge, or Delta fights back unsolicited suitor US Airways

Weeks after an unsolicited suitor showed up at its door uninvited, bearing a wedding proposal and about $9 billion in hand, Delta has recovered from its shock and begun fighting back. US Airways, the suitor with the hot eye and heavy hand of cash, had gained some strong press with a well designed and very useful merger section on its website (http://www.usairways.com/awa/content/aboutus ). The former America West Airlines offered one stop shopping with documentation, analytical slide shows and even a personal view of some if its executives. Reporters, cultivated by PR agents from the high-powered Joele Frank firm, liked it and analysts used it, through some wondered when or if Delta might expand on its simple ‘nyet’ to the US Airways cash-and-stock offer.

It’s finally happening, as Delta fights back with a well-organised employee campaign that featured rallies in major and minor cities around the system, a campaign that puts big red ‘Keep Delta My Delta’ badges on workers throughout airports, and a website (http://www.keepdeltamydelta.org ) that includes an on-line petition. Armed with 50,000 of the big badges, Delta employees rallied in major and minor cities, even in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Delta is a minimal presence but US Airways is a big player.

Chief executive Jerry Grinstein took to the web with two webcasts explaining why the Delta stand-alone plan is better than a merger and why the US Airways plan is full of antitrust pitfalls(http://www.delta.com and go to the bottom of the page.) As well argued and detailed as the US Airways merger analysis, the slideshows are seriously documented. And the Delta executives who speak on the website are numerous, including an apparently new player. In one webcast that featured a Q&A with Wall Street securities analysts, the webcast moderator introduced a new Delta chief executive, one “Mr. Einstein”. Grinstein, bursting into laughter, quipped that the new name was the smartest thing that he’d been called.

Of course, this is no laughing matter. If done, the deal creates the largest airline in the nation, but removes from the marketplace a proud name that has long been independent and has for decades stood for warmth and home-style good service across a vast swath of the nation.


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