Cargo airline Atlas Air on Thursday announced that Chief Commercial Officer Michael Steen will take over as CEO on June 15, replacing John Dietrich in line with the company’s succession plan, and that CFO Spencer Schwartz will retire the same day.

A new chief commercial officer will be named after Steen, 56, is officially appointed as CEO.

Dietrich, 58, is retiring after nearly 25 years with the company, which was acquired by investors led by hedge fund Apollo Global Management (NYSE: APO) in mid-March after years being publicly traded. 

Atlas Air achieved record earnings during the pandemic as freight capacity plunged with the cancellation of passenger flights and demand skyrocketed to expedite inventory restocking when economies reopened or to avoid ocean shipping congestion.

Atlas Air operates the largest fleet of Boeing 747 freighters in the world and in January took delivery of the last jumbo jet, a 747-8, ever produced by Boeing (NYSE: BA). It has 113 aircraft in its fleet, including a variety of Boeing 777, 767 and 737 cargo jets. Seven aircraft are leased to other operators and 11 passenger aircraft are chartered by sports teams, the Department of Defense and other organizations. Twenty-five freighters are provided by customers such as Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), DHL Express and Nippon Cargo Airlines, with Atlas providing crews, maintenance and insurance. Atlas also flies four 747-400 Dreamlifters for Boeing that have been customized to carry large aircraft sections to assembly plants.

Strategic customers include logistics providers Cainiao, DB Schenker, DSV and Kuehne+Nagel.

The airline is currently embroiled in a federal indictment of several Polar Air Cargo executives for allegedly defrauding the company of millions of dollars. Polar Air is a joint venture between Atlas Air and DHL in which Atlas Air operates the aircraft. 

Steen has been Atlas’ chief commercial officer since November 2010 and CEO since 2014 of the Titan Aviation Holdings subsidiary. He previously worked as senior vice president of sales and marketing at logistics provider Exel, which is now DHL Supply Chain Solutions, and at KLM Cargo. He is chairman of the International Air Transport Association’s Cargo Committee.

“Michael’s leadership experience, strong track record of innovation and success, and consistent focus on the company’s customer-centric mission makes him the ideal candidate to lead Atlas forward in its next phase of growth,” said Chairman David Siegel in a news release. 

Dietrich became president and CEO in January 2020 after serving 14 years as chief operating officer. Prior to joining Atlas in 1999, Dietrich was a litigation attorney at United Airlines. He sits on the board of directors at American Airlines. He is credited with expanding Atlas’ fleet from a single 747 type and diversifying product offerings, such as bundling aircraft leases with flight service, as well as moving the company into express, e-commerce, passenger and leasing businesses. During his tenure, Atlas Air also grew its military business in both cargo and passenger sectors.

Dietrich’s predecessor, William Flynn, held the top job for 13 years.

Dietrich’s base salary in 2022 was $950,000. Steen made $675,000, according to a December regulatory filing. 

Schwartz, 56, has served as CFO since 2010. Artem Gonopolskiy, senior vice president of financial planning and analysis, will become interim CFO following Schwartz’s departure while the company conducts a formal search for a permanent successor. 

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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