Matt Towery

To their tremendous credit, the airline's pilots accepted major pay reductions and made other concessions. They are unlikely, perhaps uncredited, heroes in this story of corporate comeback.

In fact, everyone from the baggage handlers to the flight attendants deserves a medal of valor for the way they stuck with the company. It evoked memories of the old days, when Delta employees collected money enough to buy the airline another plane.

Now the kicker: As has been tradition when airlines emerge from bankruptcy, Delta's management has received a handsome financial reward.

But not Grinstein. Instead of taking the money for himself, he is distributing post Chapter-11 payouts to -- imagine this -- the employees.

And for himself? Not a thing extra. He plans to retire back to his home out West, with nothing but the grateful appreciation of millions of travelers, investors and others.

Strictly speaking, he is taking something. Beyond his salary -- modest by today's standards -- he's also getting his share of the re-emergence cash.

But it won't stay with him. Instead, Grinstein will donate every dime to bolster a fund to help Delta employees if and when their families face emergency situations.

Most of us know how "It's a Wonderful Life" ends. So you'll pardon me for this: "To Gerald Grinstein, the richest man in town" and a breath of fresh air within the stuffy confines of corporate America.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery