Why It Is Time to Replace United CEO Munoz

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It is time for the board of United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) to let CEO Oscar Munoz go. He deserves every bit of compassion any ill person should receive, but his ailing heart has kept the company he runs in management turmoil.

Munoz had a heart attack last October 15. When it was clear to the board he would not return for months, it should have replaced him. Now, he has had a heart transplant, a dangerous procedure from which many people do not recover. The board apparently will keep him on until he recovers, and beyond. The decision is irresponsible.

The board might make the case that Munoz is irreplaceable. That is nonsense. The industry has many competent senior executives. Interim CEO Brett J. Hart must have skills that make him the right candidate to take the top spot permanently, since he has been asked by the board to handle it for months.

Munoz may not return until the start of the second quarter. That assumes he does not have a setback. In light of the situation, investors have asked, or ought to, why Henry L. Meyer III, the chairman of the board of directors, has done nothing. He is more responsible than anyone else to resolve the problem.

Munoz has been CEO since September 8, 2015, which is not long enough for his plans for the company to have been put into effect at all. The situation might be different if United had prospered tremendously under his long-term leadership.

Meyer and the balance of the board have a fiduciary duty to replace Munoz. And they have already taken far too many months.