A transformative acquisition is one of the most difficult steps any business can take. Come and hear how our hometown airline, Alaska Air, successfully integrated Virgin America. Alaska has not been known for being acquisitive and had managed to be successful without merging with other airlines, but in late 2016, the airline closed on the very significant acquisition of Virgin America. Integrating two large airlines with different cultures, airplane types, and systems was full of challenges. Join us for a conversation with Ben Minicucci, COO, and Patty Bedient, lead independent director, on how the company planned for and executed this integration, including the surprises, both good and bad, along the way.
In July 2016, Patricia (Patty) Bedient retired from her position as executive vice president of Weyerhaeuser Co. She served in a variety of leadership roles after joining the company in 2003, including chief financial officer from 2007 to 2016. Previously, she spent 27 years with Arthur Andersen LLP and ultimately served as the managing partner for its Seattle office and partner in charge of the firm’s forest products practice. Bedient serves on the public company boards of Suncor Energy Inc. and Park Hotels and Resorts. She also serves as lead independent director of Alaska Air Group Inc. Bedient is a member of the Overlake Hospital Medical Center Board of Trustees, Oregon State University Board of Trustees, and the University of Washington Foster School of Business Advisory Board.
Ben Minicucci serves as president and chief operating officer of Alaska Airlines, which carries over 45 million guests a year to more than 115 destinations on 1,300 daily flights across the United States and to Mexico, Canada, and Costa Rica. Under his leadership, Alaska aligned its operational and commercial groups in 2018 for the first time to better facilitate cross-divisional planning while keeping a focus on safety, reliability, profitability, and a remarkable guest experience. He oversees Alaska’s day-to-day operations on the ground and in the air, as well as capacity planning, revenue management, marketing, and sales.
Minicucci has contributed in various roles at Alaska Airlines for more than 15 years. He was named CEO of Virgin America Airlines upon Alaska Air Group’s acquisition of the company in December 2016 until the airlines merged under a single operating certificate in January 2018. He oversaw the integration of Alaska and Virgin America’s operations, processes, and work groups, which is now nearing completion. Minicucci first joined Alaska in 2004 as staff vice president of maintenance and engineering and became the vice president of Seattle operations in 2007. He implemented an operational management process called the turn timeline, which dramatically increased Alaska’s on-time performance and reliability. In 2009, Minicucci was promoted to EVP and COO. During this time, he directed the implementation of a customer service guiding framework, which empowered employees to deliver personal and kindhearted experiences to guests, recognizing their unique circumstances instead of being bound by rigid company policies. In 2016, he was promoted to president.
Before joining Alaska Airlines, Minicucci spent seven years at Air Canada, first as director of technical operations and then as vice president of heavy maintenance. He served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 14 years prior to joining the private aviation sector. Minicucci holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada. He is currently on the board of directors for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Pacific Gas and Electric.