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Grinstein bids farewell as Delta chief executive

ATLANTA - Three-and-a-half years after taking over control of Delta Air Lines Inc., Gerald Grinstein bid farewell as chief executive Friday by reminding employees of their efforts to keep the carrier in control of its own destiny.

Grinstein, 75, who will be officially replaced Saturday by former Northwest Airlines Corp. CEO Richard Anderson, said in a memo to employees that their once loud battle cry to 'Keep Delta My Delta' lives on.

'Today, because of your good work, Delta has a fresh start and controls its future,' Grinstein wrote.

During its 19 1/2-month trip through bankruptcy, Delta, and its employees, fended off a hostile takeover bid by Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways Group Inc. Delta entered Chapter 11 on Sept. 14, 2005, and emerged on April 30.

Anderson, a board member at Delta and former executive at UnitedHealth Group Inc., has dismissed analyst suggestions that his leadership could mean Atlanta-based Delta will consider a merger with another airline, perhaps Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest. Nevertheless, the speculation about future industry consolidation has continued.

Grinstein said in his memo that Delta now embarks on a new era with Anderson as CEO and Chief Financial Officer Ed Bastian adding the title president to his duties. The company announced earlier this week that Chief Operating Officer James Whitehurst would resign immediately.

Bastian and Whitehurst had been top internal candidates to replace Grinstein, but were passed over. Bastian is staying with the company.

In March, Delta said that Grinstein declined all management equity awards, incentive payments and severance that he might otherwise be entitled to post-bankruptcy.

'That's my form of being exemplary,' Grinstein said in an interview at the time.

Grinstein became CEO of Delta in January 2004, replacing Leo Mullin.

In April, Grinstein told The Associated Press that after retiring from Delta he would return to the Seattle area, where he is from. He said at the time that one of his first tasks will be helping the University of Washington search for a new law school dean. Grinstein said at the time that he's not up for the job, adding with a laugh, 'My law credentials might not support that kind of ambition.'