A shake-up at Delta Air Lines has forced out the troubled carrier’s number-three executive, chief marketing officer and executive vice-president Paul Matsen, who left a week after telling reporters that Delta’s entire strategy of international expansion would depend upon conveying a clear branding message.

Delta officials gave no explanation for Matsen’s departure, which came just days after he conducted a media tour of changes Delta had made to its check-in and club facilities at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson hub and inaugurated its new service to Israel. Shortly after, Delta dismissed its advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, which Matsen had brought in two years ago. Matsen was instrumental in marketing Delta’s “SimpliFares” programme in early 2005.

The departure of the 46-year-old Matsen leaves few Delta executives as clear candidates to succeed chief executive Gerry Grinstein. Grinstein, then 71, came out of semi-retirement in early 2004 to head the carrier and is expected to leave sometime after Delta emerges from bankruptcy reorganisation next year or in 2008. Other senior executives at the Atlanta-based airline, such as chief operating officer Jim Whitehurst, are much younger and unlikely to satisfy the board’s need for a seasoned leader. It was that need which persuaded Grinstein, a long-time non-executive board member, to take over after the sudden departure of then-chief executive and chairman Leo Mullin.

In late 2004, Grinstein forced out another Delta marketing executive, John Selvaggio, who had overseen Delta’s low-fares Song unit. Noted for its flair, though not necessarily for any economic success, Song is being folded into Delta’s domestic mainline operations. A possible successor to Grinstein is chief financial officer Ed Bastian, 48, who led Delta’s recent negotiations with its pilots toward a tentative concessions agreement. ■

Source: Airline Business