United Airlines named Michael Leskinen, 44, to succeed the company’s outgoing CFO, Gerald Laderman, effective Thursday, according to a Friday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Leskinen has served as vice president, investor relations and corporate development at United since April 2019, and since 2021 as president of a subsidiary that leads the venture capital efforts related to sustainable aviation.
The Chicago-based airline said Laderman told the company in May of his plans to retire next year after working for the company for more than three decades, according to an SEC filing at the time. Laderman has served as CFO and executive vice president for more than five years, a post he was promoted to in August 2018 after serving a short stint as acting CFO, according to his LinkedIn profile.
United CEO Scott Kirby cited Leskinen’s financial expertise in remarks included in the release. "With two decades of experience on Wall Street and five years as a leading finance executive at United, Mike brings a unique understanding of the public markets combined with an in depth understanding of our airline and our industry," Kirby said in a statement. "He is the best person to help us drive a culture within our finance team that's focused on moving fast, hitting our targets with no excuses and being disciplined about capital and cost decision-making that supports our United Next plan.”
Back in 2020 Leskinen led a team that raised $6.8 billion in financing secured by the airline’s loyalty program, which the company said provided it “critical financial flexibility to manage through the pandemic.” More recently he oversaw the launch of a nearly $200 million corporate investment fund to support startups focused on sustainable aviation fuel.
Before joining United, Leskinen worked from 2013 to 2017 for JPMorgan and from 2009 to 2013 at Oppenheimer Funds focused on the aerospace sector. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Arizona State University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania.
His compensation will include an annual base salary of $700,000, a short-term target incentive compensation opportunity equal to 120% of his base salary and a 2024 long-term incentive compensation opportunity equal to 350% of his base salary, according to the SEC filing.
The news of Leskinen’s appointment comes as the airline has been working to adjust to the strong resurgence in travel after its revenues plunged during the COVID-19 pandemic years when air-traffic slowed to a crawl, CFO Dive previously reported.
The airline reported total operating revenue of $14.2 billion for the quarter ending June 30, up 17.1% compared to a year prior, as well as carrying its highest post-pandemic volume of revenue passengers, according to the company’s July 19 earnings release.
At a conference in Boston earlier this month Laderman spoke about the difficulty of restoring business -- both inside and outside the airline industry -- to pre-pandemic operations. At the event he also downplayed talk of the company potentially moving its headquarters from Chicago to Denver, saying there were “no imminent plans” for United to make such a headquarters move despite a Reuters report that the airline purchased 113 acres of land in Denver for $33 million.