Delta Air Lines announced Wednesday that CEO Richard Anderson will retire May 2 after nearly nine years at the Atlanta-based carrier's controls.
He will be succeeded by Ed Bastian, currently Delta's president and No. 2 executive.
Anderson will become executive chairman of the board of directors at Delta, the second-largest U.S. airline by traffic and one of metro Atlanta's biggest private employers.
Bastian will step into the CEO spot, while executive vice president Glen Hauenstein will be promoted to president.
Anderson, 60, was hired in 2007 as Delta emerged from a grueling trip through bankruptcy court in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks. He quickly engineered a merger with Northwest Airlines and has recently presided over a run of high profitability and strong operational measures.
Daniel Carp, chairman of Delta's board, in a statement characterized the top-echelon moves as long-planned.
"This succession plan has been several years in the making and will keep Delta on top of the global industry,” Carp said.
Anderson is known as a canny executive who isn't afraid to ruffle feathers. He angered some Georgia politicians with his criticism of so-called religious liberty legislation, leading to the demise of a state fuel tax credit for Delta. Last year he pulled Delta out of the main airline industry trade association over policy disagreements. After he butted heads with middle eastern carriers over government subsidies, the CEO of Qatar Airways said he wanted to debate Anderson, adding: "I will hang him on a wall."
Bastian, 58, has quietly played key roles at Delta since he arrived in its finance department 1998. He briefly left in 2005 to be a top executive at Atlanta-based Acuity Brands but returned to Delta just a few months later and rose to Chief Financial Officer before taking the No. 2 post of President.
More details to come.