United CEO Munoz to return in 2016

oscar munoz united ceo

United Continental CEO Oscar Munoz says he will return to the company in the first quarter of 2016.

"I am excited to tell you that I am on the road to recovery. My time away will be a little longer than I would like, but based upon discussion with my doctors I will be back in the first quarter," Munoz wrote in a letter to employees and released by the company Thursday.

Munoz, 56, has been on medical leave since being admitted to the hospital on October 15 after having a heart attack. Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brett Hart has been serving as acting CEO since October 19.

Munoz was named president and CEO on Sept. 8 after Jeff Smisek stepped down amid a federal investigation involving the carrier and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

Wall Street was hoping that Munoz would help repair United's image with travelers.

Munoz, one of only nine Hispanic CEOs of a Fortune 500 company was previously president at railroad CSX (CSX) and also has years of experience at consumer-oriented companies, having served as an executive at Coke (KO), Pepsi (PEP) and AT&T (T).

United (UAL) stock is down about 10% this year and has lagged rivals such as Delta (DAL), Southwest (LUV) and JetBlue (JBLU).

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