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  • Why Is Sean Menke Leaving?
    Posted by Andrew Compart 8:50 PM on Jan 15, 2010

    Sean Menke is resigning as executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Republic Airways' branded operations, Frontier and Midwest, as I reported here (AWIN subscribers only). That's a surprise, and potentially damaging, given the expertise and credibility Menke brought to Republic's venture into branded service after having successfully restructured Frontier. In its press release Republic did not explain why Menke is leaving, other than to say he had "made the personal decision to resign from the organization." A statement later released by Menke did not provide much clarity either: he just says he decided that this is "the appropriate point for me to move on."

    Perhaps,  however, that Republic press release, this Denver Post story
    and what is happening with other Frontier executives provide some clues.

    In the release, Republic also announced the "next phase"
    of the integration of Denver-based Frontier and Milwaukee-based Midwest into the Republic organization: namely, the consolidation of all executive management functions in Indianapolis. Why does that matter? Because in that Denver Post story Menke talked about how hard it was on him and his family when he left Frontier to become Air Canada's executive vice president and chief commercial officer in 2005. Menke, now 41, had a toddler and newborn at the time. Now he has three kids, ages 6, 5 and 2. Menke also talks in that story about the toll on the family from the long hours and time on road required to deal with Frontier's bankruptcy restructuring, and how much he was enjoying the time he was able to spend with his family since Frontier emerged from Chapter 11.

    A Frontier spokesman, Peter Kowalchuk, shot a big hole in my theory when I spoke to him Friday. Kowalchuk said Republic Airways Chairman, President and CEO Bryan Bedford was in Denver to speak to employees Thursday, and said that Menke would have been  allowed to keep the position and stay in Denver (albeit with some travel to Indianapolis) if he wanted to.

    I'm sitll not convinced, but, if I'm wrong, here's another stab at it. The Denver Post reported, and Kowalchuk confirmed Friday, that several other Frontier executives also are leaving the company. Some of them are leaving because of the move to Indianapolis, and others for retirement or because their positions had become redundant, Kowalchuk said. But perhaps Menke wasn't happy about losing so many of the people he had worked with to rebuild Frontier.

    I also suspect, especially with three children, Menke wouldn't quit this job unless he had another lined up, or at least potential offers in the pipeline, so perhaps he is just leaving for bluer skies. In that December Denver Post story, Menke was asked about speculation that other companies in the airline industry want to hire him. In response, he acknowledged that he had been approached "to do a lot of different things." So we'll see what happens once Menke is done at Republic, which he says will be in early April after he helps with the transition to an as-yet-unnamed replacement.

    Here, as an addendum, is the statement Menke issued late Thursday afternoon about his resignation. It could just be an oversight on his part, but I wonder if anyone else finds it odd that there's a word that is not mentioned in it at all: Midwest.

    "I have said many times during Frontier’s fight to survive the last couple of years that the company that emerges from bankruptcy will have to be different than the company that entered bankruptcy. While I am proud of all we have achieved during my time with Frontier, especially what we have accomplished in the last two-plus years, I believe this is the appropriate point for me to move on. I believe there is an even brighter day ahead for Frontier under the leadership of Bryan Bedford and the Republic team.

    "I have agreed to stay with Republic to manage our branded carriers through early April. During that time, I will continue to do as I have in the past: work to make our Company, and now our Republic enterprise, a success that others in our industry use as a model for their futures."

    Tags: tw99, Frontier, Midwest, Republic, Menke

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