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Virgin Atlantic recruits head from American

LONDON -- Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic airline named American Airlines executive Craig Kreeger on Tuesday as its new head, one month after Delta Airlines agreed to buy 49 percent of the British carrier.

“Virgin Atlantic Airways has today appointed Craig Kreeger as its new chief executive,” the carrier said in a statement, adding he would assume the role on Feb. 1.

Kreeger, 53, will succeed current Virgin Atlantic chief Steve Ridgway, who is retiring from the airline and leaves at the end of next month.

At American Airlines, Kreeger had a 27-year career spanning commercial, financial and strategic roles in the United States and around the globe. He was appointed “senior vice president, customer,” in 2012.

“We are thrilled to welcome Craig to Virgin Atlantic — he is the right person to succeed Steve Ridgway at this dynamic and challenging time for our airline,” Virgin president Branson said in the statement.

“We believe Craig has the experience and passion to drive Virgin Atlantic forward and capitalize on the opportunities created by our new venture with Delta Airlines.”

Under the agreement unveiled in December, Delta will invest US$360 million (272 million euros) and Branson's Virgin Atlantic will keep its 51-percent controlling stake.

“I am delighted to be taking on the role of Virgin Atlantic's chief executive,” Kreeger said in the statement.

“I have been competing with it for many years but have always admired its laser focus on its people, its products and its customers.”

The Delta-Virgin deal requires regulatory approval in both the United States and the European Union and is expected to close by the end of 2013.

The alliance gives the Atlanta, Georgia-based Delta greater presence at the congested London Heathrow airport. The two carriers will operate 31 peak-day round-trip flights between Britain and North America, 23 of which operate out of London-Heathrow.

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