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How The Alaska-Hawaiian Merger Came Together

Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci
Hawaiian Airlines' CEO said his company had to pay serious attention to an offer made several months ago by his counterpart at Alaska.

Honolulu, HAWAII — Alaska Airlines’ $1.9 billion deal to buy Hawaiian Airlines – an announcement that Hawaiian CEO Peter Ingram described on Sunday as the biggest in the island carrier’s history – started to take shape in January, as leadership at Alaska was exploring ways to boost growth over the next five years.

Behind closed doors, those leaders quickly honed in on the potential of acquiring Hawaiian, a similar operation whose fleet was also based outside the mainland, according to Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci.

“That’s when it began. We began looking at it piece by piece, and every board meeting we would come up and give an update – we ’re liking what we see,” Minicucci said in a joint interview with Ingram on Sunday at Honolulu’s Kewalo Basin.

As part of its diligence, Alaska looked at Hawaiian’s international routes, its interisland routes, its flights to the West Coast, its cargo operations – “we looked at every part of the business,” Minicucci said. Eventually, they brought on outside advisers to help further decide whether the purchase would make sense.

Then, several months ago, Alaska’s board agreed to a price to buy Hawaiian, Minicucci said.

He then approached Ingram with an offer.

“When Ben reached out to me with the proposal, we knew it was something we had to pay serious attention to,” Ingram said Sunday. Ingram and leadership at Hawaiian had to “think about whether this was the right thing for our shareholders (and) whether this was the right thing for all of the stakeholders in our business.”

The meeting of the two executives kicked off a series of secret negotiations over the past month that culminated in the two companies’ boards approving the deal on Saturday — and then Sunday’s surprise announcement.

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