C.E. Meyer Jr., 89, Dies; as T.W.A. Chief Fought a Takeover

C. E. Meyer Jr., a former head of Trans World Airlines who tussled with the corporate raider Carl Icahn in the mid-1980s in an unsuccessful effort to thwart a takeover, died on Nov. 4 in Norwalk, Conn. He was 89.

The cause was complications of a fall incurred during his daily walk, his son Jeffrey said.

Mr. Meyer was known as a level-headed businessman who oversaw the financial functions of two major airlines as the industry boomed and air travel was still considered glamorous. He joined Eastern Airlines in 1965 as assistant treasurer and moved to T.W.A. in 1968.

After being promoted to senior vice president of finance in 1971, he became chief executive of the airline in 1976.

Mr. Icahn’s takeover bid, a tender offer of $600 million (about $1.4 billion in today’s money), came after the airline industry was deregulated and consolidation had picked up.

Mr. Icahn was at the time a much feared and sometimes loathed corporate raider. At a hearing in Washington in 1985, Mr. Meyer called Mr. Icahn one of the greediest men on earth and said he wanted to liquidate the airline, The New York Times reported. Referring to the takeover bid, Mr. Meyer was quoted as saying that “Mr. Icahn’s presence is uninvited and undesirable” and his plan was not “sound or reasonable.”

To thwart Mr. Icahn, Mr. Meyer negotiated a deal under which the airline’s parent company, Trans World Corporation, would have sold T.W.A. instead to the Texas Air Corporation, which owned Continental Airlines and New York Air.

The deal with Texas Air would have created the nation’s second-largest airline, after United. But it was unpopular with union leaders and, in a victory for Mr. Icahn, rejected by the Trans World Corporation board.

Mr. Icahn ultimately prevailed that summer and later took the company private. But Mr. Meyer’s assessment of the Icahn scheme was proved right. T.W.A. filed for bankruptcy in 1992 and was acquired by American Airlines in 2001.

Before the takeover, T.W.A. had been enduring heavy losses for years. To help stem them, the company in 1980 cut executive salaries by 25 percent or more. (Mr. Meyer’s was $205,000, or about $640,000 when adjusted for inflation, The Times reported.) He oversaw hundreds of layoffs and in 1981 reduced the managerial ranks, including dropping two senior vice presidents.

“I finally had to come back to my office one day,” he told The Times, “and say to myself, ‘Ed, can you run your outfit a little more efficiently and maybe work a little harder and do away with some people?’ ” He added, “Management is taking its medicine, if you will.”

After leaving T.W.A. in 1985, Mr. Meyer ran Hilton International until he retired in 1988. Throughout his career he served on many corporate boards, including those of Hilton International, Trans World Corporation, B. F. Goodrich, the National and International Airline Transportation Associations and National Public Radio.

Carl Edwin Meyer Jr. was born in Flushing, Queens, on Aug. 6, 1928, to Carl E. and Eunice Taylor Meyer. He graduated from St. Paul’s School in Garden City, on Long Island, and from Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1950. He served in the Army Reserve until 1952.

After his service, he joined the accounting firm Harris, Kerr, Forster & Company. He received his master’s degree in business administration from New York University in 1957 after taking night classes there.

Mr. Meyer, who died in Norwalk Hospital, lived nearby in New Canaan, Conn. Besides his son Jeffrey, he is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Ruth Oddy; another son, William; and four granddaughters.