Northwest Airlines: The Turnaround Bill Arrives

An ESOP saved the airline. Now labor wants its due

Northwest Airlines CEO John H. Dasburg has been flying high for the past three years. The carrier has posted record profits, paid down billions in debt, and repaired badly damaged relations with its unions. A strong economy and travel-happy consumers certainly helped. But underpinning the turnaround was a three-year employee stock ownership plan that staved off bankruptcy in 1993 by giving employees a 30% equity stake in exchange for $886 million in concessions.

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