Jeff Potter, the head of Frontier Airlines, mystified the airline business when he said he was leaving the Denver-based carrier that he had led for the past five years and where he had worked much of his career. The airline made it clear that Potter wasn’t being forced out, and board chairman Sam Addoms (right), who himself is about to leave the airline for retirement, lamented Potter’s departure from the chief executive’s post for a very upscale resorts company. Jeff, 47, kept his new job a secret over a weekend, setting off a flurry of merger rumours. These faded once it became clear that very few carriers are in a position to buy. The one airline that most wants to get into a merger, United, couldn’t pass muster with the competition authorities if it tried to buy its main rival at Denver. Potter and Addoms have developed an airline that gets high marks from everyone except investors, who may be growing impatient with its history of deficits. Folks will miss Potter, says Denver Post business columnist Al Lewis, who thinks the big bucks at his new job will far outweigh the relatively modest $622,800 that Potter made last year. Airline Business profiled the man and the carrier in March.Rather than a major makeover of the struggling airline, it seems that this is a case of too good to pass up: Potter’s new employer, Exclusive Resorts, is the marquee brand developed by Steve Case, the billionaire founder of America On-Line. Case has made it a luxury brand and the Hawaii native says he wants to develop vacation spots that are like those Islands of Paradise of his childhood – before they got developed. Exclusive is a membership-based business model, with most of its members being “high net-value” individuals, as the saying goes. And many of its members use their fractional shares of private jets – when they don’t own them outright. All in all, a very different flight path than Frontier’s.
Farewell, Frontier: Potter picks paradise
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