What Was Herb Kelleher’s Net Worth Before He Died? Here’s What We Know About the Southwest Airlines Founder

Herb Kelleher, the man who founded Southwest Airlines has died. Kelleher was 87. Though the New Jersey native left his formal role at the budget airline a decade ago, he remained deeply ingrained in his company. Southwest Airlines has continued to be so successful because of many of the practices that Kelleher implemented. Unlike most airlines across the globe, Southwest does not charge baggage fees for the first two bags that customers choose to check. There are also no flight change fees, and when you fly the airline, there is no such thing as assigned seats.

In a statement posted on the company’s website, Southwest Airlines remembered Kelleher saying, “His vision revolutionized commercial aviation and democratized the skies. Herb’s passion, zest for life, and insatiable investment in relationships made lasting and immeasurable impressions on all who knew him and will forever be the bedrock and esprit de corps of Southwest Airlines.”

Take a look at Kelleher’s net worth and legacy before he passed away.

An innovator in aviation

In the 1960s –Keheller was a young lawyer living in Texas with his family when he and a client –businessman Rollin King and banker John Parker came up with the concept for Southwest Airlines while eating at a San Antonio restaurant. The initial goal of the airline was to provide low-cost flights between Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio. At the time, a regular airline coach ticket between Dallas and San Antonio was $62. You could snag a Southwest ticket for $15. In 2016, Kelleher told NPR, “I knew nothing about airlines, which I think made me eminently qualified to start one because what we tried to do at Southwest was get away from the traditional way that airlines had done business, I think that was very helpful.”

However, the idea got a ton of backlash from competitors Braniff, Trans-Texas, and Continental Airlines who banned together to put a restraining order on the company. Eventually, Southwest won their case, and their planes began flying in 1971.

Herb Kelleher was worth $2.5 billion

Southwest soared under the fun-loving Kelleher and has been profitable every single year since 1973. Today, the airline employes 58,000 people across the country. Kelleher severed as the company’s executive chairman from March 1978 until May 2008 and as president and CEO from September 1981 through June 2001. Under his leadership, the company never had a single layoff, furlough, or pay cut.

Today, Southwest is still known as one of the best airlines to work for. In 2001, Kelleher told Fortune Magazine, “You have to treat your employees like customers. When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right. That has been a powerful competitive weapon for us.”

Kelleher was also known to for having fun in the workplace and with his customers. He was Kool cigarettes and whiskey, and he often dressed like Elvis Presley or other characters when he was in company meetings. He wanted to make sure that he kept things light and fun in the office.  During Southwest Airlines early days, he even came up with a clever promotion for his company involving his favorite drink. He promised his customers the lowest fare possible, but if you paid more, you were given a free bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon. He told NPR, “For a couple of months, we became the largest liquor distributor in the state of Texas.”

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