Daniel Matthews 76' - Alumni Achievement Award 07

Early in his career, Dan Matthews found a way to combine his love of aviation with his natural interest in business. After graduating from Lewis University in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Economics and a private pilot license, Matthews earned a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from Loyola University in Chicago in just nine months. He began his career in 1978 as the aircraft leasing specialist for the finance subsidiary of Borg-Warner Corporation, and after two years was recruited by Sears Bank and Trust in Chicago. He joined Sears Bank as a tax-oriented lease financing officer, but after being quite successful, he was named a new business development officer in the Commercial Lending Department. In this post, he developed more new business than any other officer and was promoted to Assistant Vice President.

In 1982, Dan experienced what he calls his “breakthrough” when he was hired by Eastern Airlines in Miami, Fla. as the company’s aircraft leasing specialist. While the airline is no longer in business, Dan played a significant role in the financial struggle to save Eastern, which was the first major airline to suffer the onslaught from low-cost competitors. When Eastern was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1989, Dan was named Vice President and Treasurer at the age of 35. While a difficult experience, he admits that in his eight years at Eastern this is where he learned to create, to structure deals, to fight and navigate his way through financial challenges and corporate demise and personally still come out as a survivor. He and his team overcame many financial challenges and never ran out of money while Dan was there, but the airline ultimately failed and went out of business for several reasons which have been documented in many books written about Eastern.

One year before Eastern stopped flying in 1990, Dan left the company to work for Ryder System also in Miami. He was appointed Director of Financial Planning and was subsequently promoted to Assistant Treasurer. After 31/2 years with Ryder, he was sought out by Northwest Airlines to return to the airline business in an effort to help turn around the financially ailing company. Moving to Minnesota, he was hired to execute a specific strategy of buying, leasing and financing airplanes. He successfully led that effort as the Vice President overseeing Aircraft Transactions and in 1999, was named Vice President and Assistant Treasurer of the airline, having responsibility for all aircraft and corporate finance. One year later, he was appointed Senior Vice President and Treasurer. After seven years in this position, Dan says believes he has seen the most challenging years in the airline business, especially following the aftermath of 9/11.

At Northwest, he has corporate responsibility for overseeing corporate finance, aircraft financing and leasing, aircraft buying and selling transactions, cash management and investments, credit and collections, pension plan investments, commercial banking, insurance and risk management, and fuel purchasing. From 1998-2005, Dan and his team put more than $20 billion of financing commitments from third parties in place and under his supervision, Northwest has closed on acquisition and financing transactions on over 500 aircraft deliveries since he started with the airline. However, after Hurricane Katrina in September of 2005, Northwest was forced to file for bankruptcy due to skyrocketing fuel costs and low-cost competition. During this time, Dan and his team were given the responsibility of restructuring and recapitalizing the company’s balance sheet. This was successfully accomplished.  On May 31 of this year, Northwest emerged from bankruptcy after 21 months marked by a ceremony of the airline getting to ring the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange in which Dan participated. Northwest has emerged from bankruptcy with a plan that should make it the most successful airline restructuring to date.

Dan says that he learned the fundamentals of business and aviation at Lewis University.  In his career he has been a featured speaker at over 50 finance industry conferences and as the Treasurer of Northwest has received all of the top airline industry financing awards including the first Airline Treasury Team of the Year Award in 2002 and the first AirFinance Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. Even while the airline was in bankruptcy, he and his team won the North American Deal of the Year Award in 2006 for successfully leading a uniquely structured $1.2 billion bankruptcy financing that had never been done before by an airline in bankruptcy.

An Evergreen Park native, Dan and his wife, Christina and their two children reside in the Twin Cities area.