Gerald Grinstein

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Gerald Grinstein (born 1932) is the former CEO of Delta Air Lines, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia. Grinstein came to the position in 2004, after CEO Leo F. Mullin stepped down amid a controversy over executive retirement and cash bonus plans that were deemed excessive. He is succeeded by Richard Anderson, a former Northwest Airlines executive, although Grinstein expected one of his two deputies for the top job. Grinstein and his wife Carolyn live in Seattle, Washington.

Grinstein received a BA from Yale University in 1954 and a JD from Harvard Law School in 1957.

From 1985 to 1995 Mr. Grinstein was also CEO of Burlington Northern Railroad (BN). In this position he helped form the corporate entity that resulted in BN's merger which formed the BNSF Railway.[1] While at the helm of BN, Grinstein adopted a new paint scheme for the railroad's executive office car train. Named for its creator, "Grinstein Green" was applied to the train's F-units along with a cream colored stripe down the middle. This paint scheme was later applied to the railroad's last order for locomotives before the merger, the EMD SD70MAC. Even today, this paint scheme is simply referred to as either "Grinstein" or "Executive" paint and many of the SD70MACs on the roster still sport this scheme.

Previously, Grinstein served as CEO of Western Airlines. When Western and Delta merged in 1987, he was appointed to Delta's Board of Directors and has remained on the board since then. He took over as CEO at a time when Delta was in a deep financial crisis. Grinstein embarked on a number of aggressive cost-cutting measures, including a major out-of-court restructuring of the company's long term debt and outsourcing of some heavy aircraft maintenance and ramp handling operations. He successfully negotiated with ALPA, the Delta pilots' union, for deep concessions in order to help the company stave off bankruptcy.

Grinstein also set about regaining the trust and confidence of Delta's rank and file employees, most of whom still harbored a great deal of resentment over the previous management's actions. He promised open, honest communications and granted himself an annual salary of $450,000 with no bonuses or stock options of any kind, well below the multimillion dollar compensation packages accepted by Mullin and his top executives at a time when Delta was losing billions of dollars. Mr. Grinstein's mix of almost grand-fatherly demeanor and his down-to-earth communication approach enabled him to be singularly able to restore the family atmosphere at Delta despite tremendous external pressures. Grinstein was successful in attracting several highly talented executives to Delta who played critical roles in the company's survival despite the airline's precarious financial position. And Mr. Grinstein actively sought the input of employees by maintaining consistent communication with the Delta Board Council, frontline employees, and the councils and forums assembled to represent them.

Although these initiatives were largely successful, upward pressure on fuel prices and fierce competition from low cost carriers continued to keep Delta perilously close to bankruptcy. Hurricane Katrina resulted in a dramatic spike in jet fuel prices in Atlanta, which houses Delta's largest hub operation. Delta, which had previously sold its fuel hedges in a move to raise cash, was forced into an untenable cash position. On September 14, 2005, Delta and its subsidiaries filed a petition for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Delta's total debt was approximately $23.8 billion.

During Delta's bankruptcy, Grinstein and his management team accelerated the restructuring process that they had started in 2004. Delta aggressively shed non-performing assets, slashed the mainline fleet from nine models to five, and shed thousands of jobs. By 2007, Delta's mainline operation employed approximately 47,000, down from a high of 78,000 in 2001. Grinstein successfully negotiated a second concessionary agreement from ALPA, imposed a second round of paycuts on nonunion employees, and froze the nonunion employee pension plan. He reduced his own pay by 25%, to approximately $325,000 per year.

Grinstein also oversaw a massive restructuring of Delta's network footprint, shuttering the airline's Dallas-Fort Worth hub and slashing domestic flight schedules across the remaining hubs in an effort to redeploy aircraft and personnel to more profitable international markets. Delta entered more than 50 new international markets between 2005 and 2007 and since its merger with Northwest Airlines in 2008 has become the world's largest carrier.

In November 2006, US Airways launched an unsolicited hostile takeover bid for Delta which Grinstein and his executive team led by Jim Whitehurst and Edward Bastian successfully fended off by supporting the employee-led Keep Delta My Delta campaign. Grinstein retired in the Summer of 2007.

Unlike his predecessor Mullin who collected in excess of $13 million despite Delta's profuse bleeding upon his forced exit from Delta in 2003, Grinstein instead directed the company to use his allotted bankruptcy emergence stock grants to establish a scholarship fund for Delta employees and their children and a hardship fund for Delta families.


  1. ^ "Gerald Grinstein". NNDB. Soylent Communications. 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 

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Preceded by
Richard C. Grayson
CEO of Burlington Northern Railroad
1985 – 1995
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Edward L. Moyers (SP)
Railroader of the Year
shared with Robert D. Krebs (ATSF)
Succeeded by
Paul M. Tellier (CN)
Preceded by
Leo F. Mullin, (Delta Air Lines Inc.)
Chief Executive Officer of Delta Air Lines
Succeeded by
Richard H. Anderson