Southwest makes executive changes with an eye on succession

Markets Associated Press

Southwest Airlines is making changes in the front office that could offer clues as to who will eventually succeed Gary Kelly as CEO and chairman.

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The company said Tuesday that it promoted Thomas Nealon, 55, to president. He is a former Southwest board member and chief information officer who rejoined the company a year ago in a strategy job.

Nealon and Michael Van de Ven, also 55 and the airline's chief operating officer, will both report to Kelly.

Southwest made several other changes in the executive ranks, but the announcement seemed to elevate Nealon and Van de Ven above other possible successors to Kelly, 61, who has led the Dallas-based airline for 12 years.

Kelly says it's important for Southwest to change its leadership as part of succession planning.