President resigns at Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air

In this file photo, Andrew Levy, president of Allegiant Air, looks at the D gates at McCarran International Airport. The Las Vegas-based carrier announced Oct. 1, 2014, that Levy has resigned his post.

Andrew Levy, Allegiant Air’s day-to-day operations boss and its highest-paid executive, has resigned.

The Las Vegas-based discount carrier announced today that Levy, president and chief operating officer, has quit his executive posts and stepped down from the board of directors.

His resignation is effective immediately, company spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said. Levy is expected to help out as an adviser for the next several months, although the company did not elaborate on that role.

Efforts to reach Levy for comment through Wheeler were unsuccessful. But in a news release, Levy said his departure “is a decision I considered carefully,” and that it’s “time for me to pursue more entrepreneurial opportunities.” He did not elaborate.

Levy also noted that he holds a sizeable amount of Allegiant stock, and that he does not plan to sell anytime soon.

He owned 158,371 shares as of April 25, a regulatory filing shows. Based on today’s closing price of $121.01 a share, his holdings are worth $19 million.

“I am excited about the future,” Levy said in the news release. “Allegiant’s future is also very bright and I feel confident I am leaving at a time when Allegiant is strong, healthy and poised for ongoing growth.”

Levy appeared a likely successor to top boss Maurice "Maury" Gallagher, and his departure seems to have caught people by surprise.

The company said it must still find a replacement, and for now, Levy’s duties will be split up among Gallagher — Allegiant Travel Co.’s chairman and CEO — and other executives.

Gallagher, Allegiant’s largest shareholder, has been on the phone today with major investors to talk about the resignation. He also has been meeting with executive team leaders today, Wheeler said.

Levy, who joined Allegiant in 2001, has held various top-level positions at the airline, and he got a seat on the board of directors last year. He had worked with Gallagher for 20 years, at Allegiant and other companies.

In a phone interview, Gallagher said the resignation came as “somewhat” of a surprise. He and Levy talked “for some time” about the pending departure and worked on “tying up the final details,” Gallagher said, without elaborating.

Allegiant focuses on flying leisure travelers around the country, mostly from small, underserved cities to popular vacation spots. The airline, with low-priced base fares and a bevy of add-on fees, is a cash cow, profitable for 11 1/2 years straight.

Gallagher praised Levy, saying he's been a “fundamental architect” of the company’s success and will be missed. Allegiant’s top boss said he hasn’t been looking for a replacement for Levy and doesn’t know what Levy will do next.

“This is him wanting to leave and look at other opportunities,” Gallagher said.

As of April, Gallagher was 64 years old and Levy was 44. Gallagher said that he and Levy used to run day-to-day operations together, but that over the past few years, Levy took on more responsibility as Gallagher moved “into background roles.”

When Levy joined the board of directors last fall, he also became Allegiant's chief operating officer. He was already company president.

“It’s been a good partnership for these many years,” Gallagher said today.

Levy, with a base salary of about $340,000, booked $5.2 million in total compensation last year, by far the most among Allegiant’s top executives, according to the regulatory filing.

His compensation included a $900,000 bonus, also highest among the executives listed in the filing.