By Maria Saporta
NEW YORK – Pilots from Delta Air Lines lined up in front of the elegant offices of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where the Atlanta-based airline was holding its annual meeting Friday morning.
They were holding placards saying: “First Class Airline. First Class Contract” and “Labor Risk…. Back on the Table?”
When retired Delta CEO Richard Anderson came up to the building, he warmly greeted the pilots, according to a company spokesman.
Of course Anderson will not have to sit at the negotiating table with the pilots during this round. That is now the job of Ed Bastian, who became Delta’s CEO on May 2.
While Anderson is the retired CEO and living in Houston, he has taken on a new role as the board’s executive chairman.
It was Anderson who presided over Friday’s annual meeting, held on the top floor of the law firm’s building with views overlooking the city.
In recent years, the meeting was chaired by Daniel Carp., the former CEO of Eastman Kodak. Carp served as the airline’s non-executive chairman until May.
Under Anderson’s gavel, the annual meeting last only eight minutes, which some Delta employees said might be a record.
“It is 7:31,” said Anderson, in calling the meeting to order. “Airlines like to get off on time.”
He then rapidly introduced the board members, barely giving them time to stand up. And then the formal part of the meeting began with the various voting items presented.
“It is now 7:34,” Anderson said. “The polls are closed.”
Preliminary results were read, and then Anderson pronounced: “The meeting is adjourned.”
Did any shareholders have a question?
Jim White, a shareholder from Philadelphia who also serves as a supplier for the airline, thanked Delta for investing in the Monroe oil refinery in his state. Then he asked how Delta would address international growth with “a lot of global issues beyond our control.”
Anderson turned to Bastian to answer that question “quickly.”
“We think international business will start to pick up again,” Bastian responded.
Then Anderson thanked shareholders for their support, and he committed on behalf of the airline to being the best company it can be.
The pilots didn’t ask a question. The Teamsters, which had presented a stockholder proposal, didn’t even speak at the meeting.
The three outside directors who call Atlanta home were present: former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin; Kathy Waller, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Coca-Cola Co.; and Frank Blake, retired CEO of the Home Depot, who now serves as Delta’s lead director.
Anderson spent a few minutes speaking to a couple of shareholders, telling that that he had been taking a break from work since he retired.
Anderson was asked his thoughts about the recent firing of Miguel Southwell, the general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
“I spoke to Kasim,” Anderson said. “I’m not worried about the airport and neither should Atlanta. Kasim is the CEO.”
Asked about Delta’s relationship with Southwell, Anderson said: “I think Miguel did a good job, but Kasim is the CEO.”