This message from Kevin Benson was e-mail to all employees today who have signed up for Internet access. It should answer your questions.
MESSAGE TO EMPLOYEES FROM KEVIN BENSON FEB 29
I do not know how many communiqués I have sent out to you over the past
few years but I do know that this is the most difficult that I have
Change has been the dominant factor in all your lives in the past few
weeks and the speed of that change has been nothing short of amazing. We
are already looking at a totally revised summer schedule, changes to the
wide body fleet, to the terminal we use in Toronto and even to the
colour scheme on our airplanes. That so much has been accomplished is a
tribute to every employee in both airlines and to their willingness and
ability to see the opportunity ahead.
There are still some milestones to be achieved with the creditors, but
with the support of Air Canada, good progress has already been made in
this area and I am confident that the plan will be completed within the
next few months. Back up financing has even been arranged to finance
alternative aircraft should any creditor decide to find another operator
for their airplane.
So it is an appropriate time for me to acknowledge that my contribution
to the future of the airline will be limited and that it is time for me
to step down as President and CEO of the airline. Over the past six
weeks, many of you have a the opportunity to get to know Paul Brotto and
I am delighted that he will succeed me as of March 1. Please understand
that this move is at my request as I feel it more accurately reflects
the real chain of command as well as the excellent relationship that
Paul and I have developed in the past month.
In discussing this decision with the Board, I expressed the desire to
continue to be involved with the airline in some capacity until the
creditor restructuring is complete. I am very pleased to tell you that
Robert immediately asked that I continue on the Board and I am delighted
to be able to do so. I will still have an office at the new building in
Calgary and rest assured you will continue to see more of me than you
thought you might.
In 1995 I joined Canadian for a two-year stint as CFO. Things changed
quickly and in 1996 I was standing in front of you asking for wage
rollbacks, wage freezes and for your support at the same time. We did
not know each other and the meetings and discussions were often long and
always stressful for all of us. However you gave me that support and
over the next three years we changed our network, our fleet, our logo
and our attitude to each other. We endured the Asian collapse and the
challenges of a low cost airline. In the end we missed our objective of
a profitable business plan, but we were able to re-establish Canadian as
the best airline in North America and one for which there were buyers.
As I have said to some of you, the past few years are ones that I would
never have wanted to miss, but I sincerely hope I will never have to
repeat. I leave with some very powerful memories, not of the sweaty days
and nights as we tried to find the right answers to so many questions,
but of the people that are Canadian. I have never worked with a
management team with so much talent, so much commitment and so much
loyalty to the group of people they led.
Just as important I have never seen a group of employees with the
spirit, determination and guts that you have all displayed, time and
time again. The award that you have just won for the airline is about
the best way to demonstrate this that I know. Throughout most of 1999,
the papers were full of our issues and woes. Our future was uncertain
and the media seemed to delight in trumpeting this to us on every
possible occasion. Your response was to turn up your service levels
still further, to such an extent that our most critical customers, the
frequent flyers, had no option but to vote you as the best.
I am very proud to have been your president for the past four years and
value very highly the trust and confidence you gave me. I know I will
cross paths with many of you in the future and will welcome the chance
to tell you this face to face.
The future has tremendous opportunities for all employees of the
airline. In the past three months, I have got to know Robert Milton
pretty well. In doing so, I have also come to respect him and his
determination to create an airline that every one of you will find
challenge and reward in. Please give him the trust, loyalty and support
that you have given me and I can assure you that you will not be
Finally best wishes to each of you as you make history in the Canadian
aviation industry. Much must, and will, change as you create a great
national airline. Embrace this change but never forget the attitude and
commitment that made you the best in the worst of times.
Therefore, he's not gone yet and many of us are glad. Considering what the man inherited on his platter when he took the position of CEO 4 years ago, he has done a tremendous job keeping Canadian alive and for that we employees will always be grateful. Since Canadian couldn't find a bionic, psychic, pull a rabbit out of a hat guy they settled for Benson and he did more than expected by us in the know. Give the man credit for that. <