BizWorthy: American Airlines CEO Under Pressure; Big Changes Planned For Charlotte Greenway

Oct 17, 2019

The CEO of American Airlines, Doug Parker, is facing mounting pressure. Charlotte’s dominant carrier has a heap of problems, including a falling stock price, labor union tensions, and unhappy customers and employees. There’s been some chatter that Parker may be not be keeping his job.

Tony Mecia with the Charlotte Ledger joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry with more on that and other business news for BizWorthy.

Marshall Terry: So, Tony, what have you heard about possible changes at the top for American Airlines?

Tony Mecia: Well, there's a lot of pressure on American right now in a number of different ways. I mean, the main thing is their stock prices down about 13% on the year in a time when the stock market for the year is generally up. You have the labor unions that they've had a lot of issues with. You have the grounding of these 737 Max airplanes that's really creating a big hole in their finances. They're unable to fly them, but they're still paying for them. I mean, a lot of people like to grumble a lot about, you know, being herded on the planes into smaller and smaller seats.

This goes really a little bit deeper than that in that, you know, you have all of these things kind of mounting at once on Parker, who was once seen as sort of the golden child CEO in the airline industry. You know, he had taken America West and bought U.S. Airways out of bankruptcy back around 2003, 2004, became CEO of American when U.S. Airways merged with American. So, he's really been at the helm of Charlotte's major airline for about 15 years or so. But we're going to have to see how long he can hang on. He's got a lot of pressures he's dealing with and there's a lot there.

Terry: And as if to add insult to injury, the CEO of American rival Delta has been apparently taking some jabs at American's woes on Instagram. What has he been posting?

Mecia: Sure. You know, it's sort of unusual to have CEOs trolling each other on social media, but the CEO of Delta in the last week or two posted something on Instagram saying how wonderful it was to be in South America. He encouraged everybody to go to South America because they just forged a partnership with a Latin American airline that actually used to be a partner of American.

So, they sort of stole away this partner of American's, and so now you have the you know, the CEO of a rival airline saying, "Chile is beautiful this time of year, everyone should come visit." That was sort of seen as a veiled roasting of Doug Parker.

Terry: Former Charlotte financial adviser Jim Heafner and his former brokerage company have been ordered to pay $1 million as part of an arbitration case. Who is the money going to and what was the complaint exactly?

Mecia: Sure. You have a number of clients of Heafner, who is a well-known financial planner in the Charlotte area — appeared on local TV and radio shows as a financial guru. He had advised a bunch of his clients to go ahead and invest money in a company called One Global out of Florida.

Well, the SEC started investigating that company. The money kind of disappeared, and a lot of the investors were sort of left holding the bag — lost a bunch of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars. And so this is a complaint that was filed with the brokerage industry's regulatory body that turned around and said, OK, Heafner and the brokerage company — a company called Taylor Financial out of Georgia — that they need to go ahead and make things right with these with these clients.

So, the bankruptcy case with one global still proceeding. I've talked to Heafner. You know, he's expressed regret that he ever counseled his clients to invest in this company. He said he had money in it as well, that he lost money. And so, he says he looked, he said the finances looked strong. He didn't know that there was anything wrong with the company. But this arbitration board seemed to find him at least partially at fault.

Terry: Finally, construction around Charlotte often leads to road closures, and now planned construction is spurring the closure of part of a greenway. So, which one are we talking about?

Mecia: Well, we're talking at the Little Sugar Creek Greenway there between Freedom Park and Morehead, right by Atrium Health. Atrium has put in a rezoning with the city. They want to rezone their main campus there. It's about 70 acres. That would allow them to add a medical school, some senior housing, possibly a hotel.

Part of what they're proposing is to redo part of the greenway, to expand the greenway to about 16 feet wide. If you've ever been on that section of Greenway, it's very narrow. You have to dodge columns of baby carriages, you're almost decapitated with joggers running by with their dogs on leashes. You know, you have kamikaze 6-year-old kids riding their bikes full speed at you. It's a pretty crowded stretch of greenway.

So, the idea that they're going to widen it to 16 feet, I think is pretty welcome. But to do that, they're going to have to shut it for a number of months. We still don't know the exact timetable. Atrium Health isn't saying a whole lot about it, but in the next couple of years, I think we'll see it close and widened.