Bush White House Could Benefit Airline Deals
An effort to merge Delta Air Lines (DAL) and Northwest Airlines (NWA) would clearly benefit from being reviewed while the Bush administration is still in office, says a recently departed Transportation Department official.
"The advantage to going now is that you have an administration that is not running for anything," says Andrew Steinberg, who stepped down last month after two years as the DOT's assistant secretary for aviation, in an interview. "Decisions can be made solely on the basis of merit. Nobody will be concerned, even at the political level, about the perception of challenging or not challenging a particular transaction."
Perhaps adding to the likelihood of a Delta and Northwest pact, The Wall Street Journal reports that Delta CEO Richard Anderson told the board he would forego millions of dollars in compensation he could receive if a deal is reached."It would be helpful to get it done now," says Steinberg, who was previously chief counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration. In particular, he says, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is "very independent, which is good from the point of view of the parties" seeking approval. By contrast, going forward, "some of the populist rhetoric you are hearing in the campaign for president would make me more concerned if I were thinking about a transaction, because of the perception that there is an anticorporate bias on the part of some of the Democratic candidates." At the same time, Steinberg notes, the administration is only one factor. "These decisions are heavily driven by a dedicated career staff
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