Thomas Naughton, CEO of Wayne County Airport Authority, plans to retire at the end of September.

DALLAS – The authority that runs Detroit's main airport is on the hunt for a new leader following chief executive officer Thomas Naughton's decision to retire this fall.

Naughton, CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority, which manages Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Willow Run airport, will provide consulting services to the board for another year as the authority searches for a replacement.

The board last week tapped Joe Nardone, a vice president of business development for real estate, to serve as interim CEO effective Oct. 1.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to lead one of the best teams of aviation professionals in the world," Naughton said in a statement. "Together, we have been at the forefront of aviation management and successfully guided the Airport Authority through many improvements, including the construction of two new passenger terminals and the full reconstruction of the largest, most capable runway at Detroit Metro Airport."

Naughton began working with WCAA in 2002 and has served in a number of leadership positions including chief financial officer, executive vice president and interim chief executive officer. He was promoted to chief executive officer in 2012.

The authority carries more than $2 billion of debt. Moody's Investors Service rates the airport's senior-lien bonds A2. Standard & Poor's rates them A, and Fitch Ratings A-minus.

All three maintain a stable outlook. The airport's credit profile benefits from a financial and legal insulation from Wayne County and the city of Detroit, both junk-rated.

Detroit filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. in July 2013 and exited Chapter 9 in late 2014. Wayne County has been working under a state consent agreement since last year. The county is on track to be released from state oversight as soon as this year.

The airport authority is a political subdivision of the county that was created by statute in 2002. It's governed by a seven-member board, with four appointed by the county executive, two by the governor, and one by the county board.

The Detroit airport completed a $600 million of new money and refunding bond sale last September. Detroit is Delta Air Lines', Inc. second-largest hub behind Atlanta.

The airline accounts for just fewer than 80% of all passengers, a dominance that ratings analysts warn could pose risks for the airport if Delta decides to scale back service. But Delta has a lease agreement through 2032, which offsets the risk.

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