June 16, 2007

AirTran lands seats on board of Midwest Air

AirTran Holdings Inc. gained ground Thursday in its attempted takeover of Midwest Air Group Inc., when Midwest shareholders ousted three board members and replaced them with a slate nominated by Orlando-based AirTran.

The operator of regional carrier Midwest Airlines has steadfastly rejected escalating offers from AirTran, saying it would be more profitable alone.

But shareholders, meeting Thursday in Milwaukee, seemed to think otherwise. AirTran, which operates low-cost AirTran Airways, estimated that its candidates received 65 percent of the vote. Milwaukee-based Midwest said it expected to announce certified results June 26. A board meeting would follow that.

Even before voting ended Thursday, Timothy Hoeksema, Midwest's chairman and chief executive officer, said the board would allow AirTran to make a presentation on its latest offer -- though he cautioned that did not mean the companies were starting negotiations. A presentation date has not been set.

Hoeksema called the vote "disappointing" but said Midwest will respond.

"If today's election says anything at all, it says our shareholders want us to listen, and that is what we intend to do," Hoeksema said.

There are nine seats on the Midwest board, but only three were up for election.

AirTran had predicted its nominees would be elected, citing strong shareholder support for the latest offer -- a cash-and-stock deal worth $389 million. Earlier this week, AirTran extended the offer to Aug. 10.

The company said shareholders have agreed to tender 59.5 percent of Midwest's outstanding shares. Any deal would still need the board's approval.

Tad Hutcheson, AirTran Holdings' vice president of marketing, said the company was not surprised by the vote and looked forward to making its case in a presentation.

"This is about bringing two good airlines together to make a great airline," said Hutcheson, who was at the meeting, along with several other AirTran executives.

The full of this article's can be read on the source at: www.orlandosentinel.com

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