Well, since I have sixteen years of experience with Northwest, I will try and answer this question for you. First, you have to understand that Northwest Airlines was a very frugal and very wealthy airline. They were able to pay cash for their aircraft and they were able to have a bigger payload by using very little paint. The 1969 livery did just that...most of the fuselage was natural aluminum with a big painted white section over the window areas. Directly on top of the windows was a navy blue stripe that ended just aft of the forward boarding door. Last, the tail was painted red. Anyway, in 1986, Northwest Airlines (tired of competing with Republic) purchased Republic Airlines for $884 million. This was a minor financial set back that sent Northwest Airlines into heavy debt and almost forced them to be grounded. Since Northwest is the State of Minnesota's largest employer, the State of Minnesota rescued Northwest from financial ruin. In the papers that were drawn up, the State of Minnesota included a clause stating that Northwest must keep its World Headquarters in Minneapolis until the debt is paid off (if this weren't included, NWA would have shifted its focus and emphasis on Detroit). So far, every year has been a very profitable year for Northwest and they have been able to make the payments on their debt.
The last time I checked, Northwest had something like $400 million that they still owed the State of Minnesota.
Hope that helps.
Aviation is proof that, given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.