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Former CFO Now Pilots AirTran

Robert Fornaro, who joined as finance chief and president in 1999, most recently was COO. Leonard remains as chairman.
Stephen TaubNovember 1, 2007

AirTran Holdings Inc. named one-time company chief financial officer Robert L. Fornaro to be CEO. He succeeds Joe Leonard, who continues as chairman of the parent of AirTran Airways.

Fornaro, who most recently was president and chief operating officer, joined the Orlando-based discount-fare airline as president and CFO in 1999. He was elected to the board in 2001.

Earlier this year AirTran ended its bid for Midwest Airlines, which ended up agreeing to be acquired by TPG Capital LP, a private-equity firm that includes Northwest Airlines. Trying to stay competitive, AirTran had sought Wisconsin-based Midwest for more than two years after making an initial bid of $78 million in June 2005.

Prior to joining AirTran, the airline once known as ValuJet, Fornaro held various executive positions with TWA, Braniff, Northwest, and US Airways.

“Bob Fornaro is highly respected throughout the airline industry and has been well known for many years in the media, financial and investor communities for his strategic planning, financial acumen and marketing expertise,” said Leonard. “As part of the board’s succession planning, we had focused on Bob as the CEO of AirTran Holdings.”

Fornaro, 54, attended Rutgers College on a lacrosse scholarship and earned a bachelors degree in economics there. He also received a masters degree from Harvard University.