NEWSMAKER: Republic's Bedford keeps low profile, makes big impact

December 26, 2009

For the head of an 11,000-employee company, Bryan Bedford has all the profile around these parts as a participant in the federal witness protection program.

In recent years, the CEO of Republic Airways Holdings has infrequently granted interviews in his airlines’ hometown. He’s not a prominent figure in business circles, either, as was George Mikelsons, CEO of the former ATA Airlines.

Bryan Bedford

Bedford has had lots to say lately in Denver and Milwaukee, where Republic acquired Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines. Mostly he’s been fielding obligatory questions as to what Republic has in mind for those major employers.

In a recent interview with The Denver Post, however, Bedford opened up about, of all things, his religious beliefs. The devout Catholic with eight children and a nearly 20-year marriage has frequently mentioned God in company newsletters.

“I pray for God’s continued blessings on our families and our airline,” he told the Post.

“This tells you where I come from, what makes me tick, and this is what I believe and what the company value system is,” he added.

Secularists went apoplectic. A Denver professor of ethics said he was worried by such talk. Bedford seemed amused by such criticism.

“Gasp … He talks about God in public and to his employees,” he told the newspaper, in response.

While Bedford’s unapologetic infusion of the Deity into the workplace has some wringing hands, they’re hard-pressed to fault his business sense. Republic, now a branded carrier holding company, has posted consistent profits and growth during his tenure.

Bedford came to Indianapolis in 1999 and has been credited for turning around what had been a money-losing regional carrier with a fleet of propeller-driven aircraft.

One of the first things the former Mesaba Holdings CEO and his team did was to renegotiate Republic’s compensation agreements with major airlines. Previously, the regional carrier was paid under a prorated formula, getting a portion of the dollar amount of fares. That was fine until fare prices fell.

Instead, they secured fixed-fee contracts that insulated Republic’s Chautauqua Airlines from falling fares.

Bedford also led the re-fleeting of the company—ditching propeller planes for Embraer jets that resembled shrunken versions of big airliners.•



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