10 Things You Didn’t Know about Delta CEO Edward Bastian

Edward “Ed” Bastian of Delta Air Lines is one of the more interesting people in the world of corporate CEOs, likely because he has an interesting character that can be seen in the boardroom and out on the boardwalk. You can decide for yourself after reading these 10 not-so-obvious facts about him.

1. He is very patriotic when it comes to his business and personal life.

He spent a cool $71,000 for his Tesla, in large part because it is U.S. built, incorporates U.S. technology, and is the result of U.S. innovation. Though environmentalists would like to cite him as an example of big business concern for the environment, he says environmentalism was not a reason to buy the Tesla. Instead, he says it is practical and helps speed his way to work by being able to use the HOV lane for almost the entire trip to the airport.

2. He recently has made his differences with President Trump public.

What? Yes, apparently Mr. Bastain extends his patriotism to disagreeing with persons and policies that are, in his opinion, contrary to the best interests of the country. The specific talking point is the wall being constructed along the U.S.-Mexico border. To the North, Delta recently negotiated a deal to buy 75 Canadian Bombardier aircraft but has run into another Trump wall as the government assessed Bombardier with a 220% duty for allegedly dumping product, an accusation made by Boeing.

3. He runs marathons.

Not half marathons but full marathons, all 26 miles. This is a recent athletic pursuit by Mr. Bastain, having put his running shoes on only a few years ago back in 2014. This may make it seem as if he has adopted a competitive lifestyle, but actually the marathon was the result of a “bet” he made with his Delta employees. He told them that if Delta’s New York City operations became profitable he would run in the New York City Marathon. So they did. And so he did.  P.S. he’s also running again this year.

4. He had childhood visions of becoming a major league baseball player.

While it is true many children have the same dreams, Mr. Bastain was athletically inclined and could have made a serious run at making it in the big leagues. Keep in mind we just pointed out her runs marathons, but we didn’t mention his age – 58. He was 54 when he ran in the New York City Marathon, not bad for a guy who also runs a major airline (on the side?).

5. His athleticism apparently extends to his family life.

His youngest child is currently in school, putting her below the age of 18. You do the math, but it begs the question of where he finds the time or energy. (She officially has been listed at 12 years old.) He says he has to keep working hard for her, and this may be one of the role model type examples of how you can stay motivated to keep healthy and working no matter how successful you become. But there is another angle to this. Every time he comes home he recognizes the responsibility he has to everyone’s flight safety – including his daughter’s.

6. As the firstborn of 9, he learned to manage people early in life.

The idea of primogeniture, where the oldest gets the bestest, is historically valid, and with 8 others to deal with it is likely he had his share of management moments. It might have also been the reason he decided to go into accounting when he went to college at St. Bonaventure University instead of playing baseball. There was a lot of accounting to be done just growing up, so it was a natural continuation of his childhood.

7. He is known to go against the grain, even in executive corporate venues.

That accounting education and the work experience that would follow prepared him for one of the most difficult decisions he would make in his corporate life. Working his way up to the position of Senior Vice President at Delta back in 2000, he and the company were facing very difficult financial times. He made his position on the matter – that the company should file for bankruptcy protection – corporate clear. However, the decision was made to lay off employees, cut expenses, etc. In 2004, he left based on what he calls “strategic differences” between himself and the company.

8. He is Steve Jobs-like.

Mr. Bastain didn’t found Delta Airlines but he was critical to its financial recovery after, ironically, returning to Delta in 2004 upon the request of then-CEO Jerry Grinstein of Delta. As it turns out it seems there were people who saw that Bastain was right, and upon his return the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Then came the financial restructuring led by Bastain, bringing the company back to profitability and respectability.

9. He actually reads blogs.

Founder and Managing Partner of REES Capital, Amy Rees Anderson, now a contributor to Forbes wrote a blog titled, “Companies don’t have to be perfect but they do need to fix it when they screw up!” Soon thereafter she received a phone call from Mr. Bastain who has read the blog and wanted her feedback on her particular experience. She concluded, “He does care!”

10. Airplanes were foreign to him for the first third of his life.

Mr. Bastain was more interested in baseball than air traffic for most of his early life. The first time he stepped on to an airplane was after he graduated college at 25, flying to the Interview with Price Waterhouse in New York City.


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