Burger King chairman leaves to run an airline

Dasburg is named CEO of DHL, a cargo carrier

March 19, 2003|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Burger King Chairman John Dasburg is giving up fast food and going back to airlines.

DHL Airways announced yesterday the appointment of Dasburg as chairman and chief executive of the cargo airline, whose main customers are DHL Worldwide Express Network and the U.S. military.

"Every once in a while something falls into your lap that fits 100 percent," Dasburg said. "This is as close as that gets."

Dasburg, 60, will take the helm of the privately held Chicago company April 1 and is resigning immediately as chairman of Burger King. That position had been largely an honorary title and did not include a seat on Burger King's board of directors. Dasburg's primary role was as an adviser.

Since January, when Brad Blum became chief executive, Dasburg has been removed from the daily operation of the fast-food chain. Dasburg, who took over as chairman, chief executive and president of Burger King in April 2001, said it was time for him to move on after completion of the December sale of Burger King to a consortium led by Texas Pacific Group.

Before joining Burger King, Dasburg spent more than a decade as president and chief executive of Northwest Airlines. He's credited with turning around the fourth-largest airline, taking it from the verge of bankruptcy to become one of the most successful airlines in the industry.

DHL is a much smaller business than Northwest, with a fleet of 40 planes and annual revenues of $300 million, but that was what appealed to Dasburg.

The job will allow him to continue living in South Florida and commute to Chicago as needed.

"This is the size business that I can really get my arms around," Dasburg said. "It's a growth business, and I find that exciting. From a strategic standpoint, I think the need for supplemental freight carriage is going to grow significantly over the next five to seven years."

DHL Airways operates its fleet from a hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. The airline, which has 1,000 employees, contracts with DHL Worldwide Express network to provide its U.S. cargo and charter services.

DHL Airways also has an operation in Ramstein, Germany, which provides supplies for U.S. Air Force personnel. The company has been without a chief executive since Joseph O'Gorman died in August.

"We are very fortunate that John Dasburg has decided to rejoin the airline industry," said Roy Moulton, acting chairman of the board of DHL Airways. "John has demonstrable success in managing and growing airlines profitably, the insight to manage relationships with key business partners and employees, and the vision and drive to transform our company into the leader in our sector."

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