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New CEO of United welcomes challenge

Creighton also has ties in the Rogue Valley

The new chairman and chief executive of United Airlines, John W. "Jack" Creighton Jr., has one of the more momentous tasks in the business world today.

United, which has served Medford since the company's infancy, has been in a deep financial dive this year - even before two of its planes were hijacked on Sept. 11.

Creighton, former chief executive of Weyerhaeuser Co. and a United board member since 1998, was unanimously elected chairman Sunday after James E. Goodwin was pressured to resign by the board.

"I liked the challenge, I liked the company and I have the skills that fit the issues," the 69-year-old Bellevue, Wash., resident said Tuesday. "I've been on boards that have gone through CEO changes and in the throes of financial difficulties before. But nothing I've been through has been of this magnitude, size or complexity. But I have had good basic training."

The question, of course, burning in Rogue Valley residents' minds is whether United will continue serving Medford.

"I hate to say this, but I don't know," said Creighton, from the chairman's office in United's massive 40-year-old, low-slung corporate headquarters. "We have dropped eight cities. It just depends on the traffic and I don't have any idea."

On his second full day on the job at Elk Grove Village outside of Chicago - in between a monthly meeting with United's worldwide officers and talks with representatives from five unions - he squeezed a few moments in to call a reporter from the Rogue Valley.

Creighton knows Southern Oregon well. He has attended plays in Ashland since the 1970s and is a longtime Oregon Shakespeare Festival member. He's presently serving on its board of directors.

"I think he's going to be a fierce competitor," said OSF board Vice President Chuck Butler. "He's very task-oriented and that's excellent for United."

Former OSF board and finance committee member Sid DeBoer said Creighton frequently wasn't overly talkative, but was astute and very objective.

"He's a down-to-earth guy and knows the nuts and bolts of finance well. It was a great honor to have him on our board when he finally retired from Weyerhaeuser."

Creighton is past president of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Five years ago, he was the keynote speaker and installing officer for the Crater Lake Council's dinner at the Ashland Hills Inn. He said he mixed business and pleasure on the trip, later stopping in Klamath Falls, where Weyerhaeuser had operations.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail