Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

Harvard Business School Baker Library Historical Collections

Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Continental Air Lines, Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Continental Air Lines, Inc.

List of Deals

Continental Airlines was founded in 1934 as Varney Speed Lines. Varney Speed Lines was the fourth airline begun by its founder, Walter Varney. In 1937, Robert Foreman Six bought 40 percent of the airline and changed its name to Continental Airlines. Continental's original network covered a circuit between Denver and El Paso; the company worked to grow through the addition of other routes.

In 1951 the company spent $7.6 million to update its fleet to larger aircrafts. This sum was equal to the company's profit that year. Continental merged with Pioneer Airlines in 1953; by doing so the company added routes to sixteen cities in Texas and New Mexico. To compete on cross-country routes, the company added jets to its fleet in the late 1950s. Continental developed a maintenance system for its Boeing 707 fleet that enabled the planes to fly fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, the longest operating time for jets in the industry.

In 1961, Robert Six and Ted Baker of National Airlines announced a merger of their two companies; the merger was cancelled shortly thereafter, as Baker had secretly negotiated the sale of National to Frontier Airlines. Continental suffered its first crash in 1962, when a bomb exploded on the plane. In 1963 the company moved its headquarters from Denver to Los Angeles. The company formed Air Micronesia in 1968 to accommodate its military contract for the Military Airlift Command during the Vietnam War. By 1972 the company had diversified into the hotel business; the company, or its subsidiaries or affiliates, operated hotels in Hawaii and on certain Pacific Ocean Islands. At one time Continental was one of the most financially stable airlines in the world. During its first thirty-five years, the company registered one loss, in 1958. However, increasing costs of fuel and poor economic conditions resulted in a steady decline in the airline industry during the 1970s.

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