United Airlines has named its new CFO, following Gerry Laderman’s announcement of his planned retirement in May of this year. The new finance chief, Michael Leskinen, assumes his role immediately. In addition to the CFO title, Leskinen is also promoted to executive vice president of the airline company.
Leskinen will oversee corporate finance, treasury, FP&A, tax, accounting, investor relations, procurement, internal audit, risk management, and corporate strategy, according to United. United has over $70B in assets, over $48 billion in revenue, and profits of $1.9 billion.
Leskinen has been with United since 2018, when he started in investor relations, and continued along that path until he was named president of United Airlines Ventures (UAV), the role he held immediately prior to being named CFO. UAV is a venture capital fund focused in part on decarbonizing air travel. He posted on his personal LinkedIn page that he will continue to focus on climate change.
Also of note, Leskinen led the company in raising $6.8 billion of financing from Goldman Sachs and others in 2020 when the pandemic caused $63 billion in losses for the U.S.’s top five airlines. The debt was secured by United’s Mileage Plus loyalty program.
Leskinen succeeds Laderman, who has been with the company for 13 years, the last five as CFO.
Leskinen’s time in investor relations at United means he has a relatively unique background for a finance chief. According to a recent report from Crist | Kolder, only 1.3% of CFOs surveyed directly came from this internal role, though the survey is silent on earlier parts of their careers. Most CFOs are promoted from either corporate finance or controller/chief accounting officer, titles Leskinen has not held. Additionally, at age 44, Leskinen is substantially younger than the surveyed average age of 50.8 at the time of appointment.
By comparison, Dan Janki, CFO of Delta, developed his career in corporate audit and matriculated to treasury while at GE, but he also had a stop in investor relations and served as president and CEO of GE Power Portfolio. Devon May, CFO of American Airlines, has followed a much more traditional path, spending extensive time in FP&A before arriving in his current role, but also spent time in pricing and capacity planning while at America West Airlines.