American Airlines became the latest company to change up its executive suite heading into the new year, with the airline announcing that its long-time CFO Derek Kerr will step down, to be succeeded in the role by Devon May, senior vice president of finance and investor relations.
The switch, effective Jan. 1, is part of a “long-planned CFO succession planning process,” CEO Robert Isom wrote in a Tuesday letter to employees shared with CFO Dive. “The CFO transition will be seamless as Derek and Devon have worked closely for more than 20 years, and Devon has been an integral part of our executive team for more than a decade.”
Kerr, an executive with over 20 years of experience in the airline industry, has served as American Airlines’ CFO for just shy of a decade, beginning his tenure at the financial helm in December 2013, according to his LinkedIn profile, but previously served as CFO for both American West Airlines and US Airways, respectively. US Airways merged with America West in 2005, before U.S. Airways merged with American Airlines in 2013.
“Derek Kerr is quite simply the best CFO in the history of the airline industry,” Isom said in a statement included in the press release. “He is a great friend and has been a trusted advisor throughout my career, and his 20-year stint as CFO of America West, US Airways and American is unparalleled. He was instrumental in bringing together American and US Airways and ensuring American remained on solid footing during the global pandemic.”
He will remain at the company as vice chair, president of American Eagle and strategic advisor for the airline, as well as continue to head up its Regional and Cargo teams, according to the release.
May, 46, has also held a variety of executive, leadership and finance roles during his 20-plus years in the airline industry. He began at Continental Airlines as a senior analyst in 2000 before joining America West Airlines in 2002, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He has served as the airline’s SVP of finance and investor relations since February 2022, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Details of his compensation as CFO have not yet been determined, according to the filing.
May also takes the helm as American Airlines continues to focus on reducing debt following the pandemic, with Kerr focusing on fixing the airlines’ balance sheet during the past year, according to an August Q&A with the Associated Press. American currently has more than $36 billion in debt, according to AP, and reducing it remains a “top priority,” Kerr said during the airline’s Q3 2022 earnings call.
Although American’s switch has been in the works for some time, the Fort Worth, Texas-based company joins a growing list of firms announcing CFO departures and changes as the year draws to a close.
Companies across industries have revealed both internal and external picks for CFO spots over the past two weeks. The CFO of the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant chain is resigning, the company announced today, with a departure date in early February, while IHG, the owner of hotel chain Holiday Inn, tapped the finance head of its Americas division as its next CFO, for example, according to a Reuters report.
Meanwhile, consumer goods company Newell Brands and packaged food company Del Monte Foods announced new executives would be taking their financial helms Monday, for example, while iconic doughnut brand Krispy Kreme swiped a former Mars executive for their CFO last week.
These moves come after CFO turnover has slowed, with the rate of CFO turnover at S&P 500 companies ticking down to 14% for the first three quarters of 2022 — a decline from the 16% reported during that same time last year, according to October data from executive search firm Russell Reynolds.
But the report anticipated the latest uptick, predicting the fourth quarter would see an uptick in turnover due to several key trends, including market volatility and notably, better succession planning on the part of businesses. Sixty-three percent of newly appointed CFOs are now appointed internally, according to the report.