Tom Horton will rejoin AMR ( AMR) as CFO, four years after he left the company to take a similar position at AT&T ( T). In a press release Wednesday, AMR CEO Gerard Arpey welcomed Horton back, praising "his broad knowledge of the challenging airline industry and keen understanding of the financial markets." In his new role as AMR's CFO and executive vice president of finance and planning, Horton will oversee all of the company's finance and planning functions. Horton's departure in 2002 was the first in a series of CFO departures from AMR and key holding American Airlines, which was struggling through the deepest slump in aviation history. Horton's successor, Jeffrey Campbell, left after a year for a job at McKesson ( MCK). Campbell's successor, James Beer, left after two years for a job at software company Symantec ( SYMC). "Tom Horton knows the company," Helene Becker, airline analyst for Benchmark Capital, said Tuesday. "They have a lot of refinancing to do this year, they have $1.25 billion in debt that has to be paid off or refinanced, and I think he can hit the ground running." (Benchmark doesn't hold shares of AMR.) Becker added that the AMR finance department is "an excellent training ground." Arpey is a previous CFO, and other executives "train at AMR and then leave and go to other companies and bring the 'AMR way' to those companies." Calyon Securities analyst Ray Neidl added that Horton is "an excellent CEO -- American is lucky to get him back." (Caylon doesn't hold shares of AMR.) AT&T underwent a transformation during Horton's four years there, during which he served as vice chairman and CFO. Its long-distance business shrank, while its IT and wireless businesses grew. Horton oversaw an evaluation of strategic alternatives, which resulted in a merger with SBC, which retained the AT&T name.
New York attorney Dick Katcher, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, worked closely with Horton during his tenure at AT&T and said: "Tom is a guy who can be very good at managing costs and was also a major contributor on the revenue side. "He can get very involved in the details and at the same time has a good view of the big picture," said Katcher, who recalls that Horton -- like many people in the airline industry -- kept an airplane model in his office. Horton initially joined AMR in 1985 after working for accounting firm KPMG. He held a variety of jobs including vice president-Europe before becoming CFO in 2000.