Jerry Grinstein, a former CEO of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines who now has a building dedicated to him at the company’s campus near Hartsfield-Jackson, is known for guiding the carrier through some of its most challenging times.

In navigating the company through a bankruptcy and successfully fending off a hostile takeover attempt by US Airways, Grinstein kept Delta as an independent airline and gained the respect and admiration of many of the company’s employees.

Here’s a brief timeline of Grinstein’s tenure at Delta:

1987: Gerald Grinstein joins Delta’s board of directors with its acquisition of Western Airlines, where he was CEO.

1997: Grinstein is a key figure in the ouster of Delta CEO Ron Allen and subsequent hiring of Leo Mullin.

2004: Grinstein becomes CEO, replacing Mullin amid deep losses at Delta

2005: Delta files for bankruptcy.

2006: US Airways makes hostile bid for Delta.

January 2007: US Airways withdraws its $10 billion takeover bid.

April 2007: Delta’s reorganization plan is confirmed, allowing the company to emerge from bankruptcy after filing for Chapter 11 in 2005.

May 2007: Delta executives rang the New York Stock Exchange’s opening bell from Atlanta, as their new post-bankruptcy stock began trading, pushing an electronic button that triggered a bell sound. Delta executives then flew to New York to ring the closing bell. “Welcome to independence day,” said Ed Bastian, then-chief financial officer and now CEO.

August 2007: Grinstein retires after piloting the airline through bankruptcy and a campaign called “Keep Delta My Delta” to rebuff a hostile takeover attempt by US Airways. He leaves the company’s headquarters as hundreds of employees line the driveway.

Richard Anderson becomes the next CEO.


  • C.E. Woolman, 1929-1966: Beloved by employees, Delta’s principal founder raised the airline from its crop-dusting roots and was its primary executive for nearly four decades.
  • Charles Dolson, 1966-1971: Joined Delta as a pilot and is the only flight crew member to ascend to the top job.
  • W.T. “Tom” Beebe, 1971-1978: Came to Delta in merger with Chicago and Southern. Remained chairman of the board until 1983.
  • David C. Garrett Jr., 1978-1987: Led Delta through deregulation. In charge during a legendary 1983 fund drive in which workers chipped in to buy a 767 named “Spirit of Delta.”
  • Ronald Allen, 1987-1997: Led buyout of Pan Am’s Europe routes and guided Delta through mid-90s financial troubles. Forced into early retirement after losing board support.
  • Leo Mullin, 1997-2003: Utility and banking exec was the first outsider hired to run Delta. After strong profits in late 1990s, tenure marred by post-9/11 financial trouble and controversy over executive bonuses and pension perks.
  • Gerald Grinstein, 2004-2007: Longtime Delta board member replaced Mullin amid financial crisis. Imposed painful cutbacks but will be remembered for bringing Delta through Chapter 11 restructuring intact.
  • Richard Anderson, 2007-2016: Former Northwest CEO and attorney who led Delta’s merger with Northwest Airlines, financial restructuring and path toward becoming one of the nation’s leading carriers.
  • Ed Bastian, 2016-today: Continued Delta’s efforts to establish itself as a premium brand, guided airline through COVID-19 pandemic, is leading changes to its frequent flier program to drive more spending through Delta, alienating some customers.