Posts Tagged ‘railroad executives’

Foote Named Permanent CSX CEO

December 23, 2017

James M. Foote had the word “acting” removed from his title on Friday after the CSX board of directors unanimously voted to name him the company’s permanent president and chief executive officer.

James Foote

Foote had been named acting CEO on Dec. 14 after E. Hunter Harrison was placed on medical leave. Harrison died two days later.

In a news release, CSX said that Foote will also join the board of directors.

“Jim has decades of railroading experience and the board is confident of his ability to lead the company,” says CSX Chairman Edward J. Kelly III in a statement. “He has already had a markedly positive impact. The board looks forward to working with him.”

Foote said in the same statement that his intends to continue to implement Harrison’s model of precision scheduled railroading, saying that its implementation is well underway, with the most critical components of the implementation completed and beginning to generate measurable operating improvement.

“We look forward to providing an update on our strategic progress and to showcase our deeply talented management team at our upcoming investor day in March,” Foote said.

Before joining CSX last October, Foote was president and CEO of Bright Rail Energy, a technology company formed in 2012 to design, develop, and sell products that allow railroads to switch locomotives to natural gas power.

He previously served as executive vice president of sales and marketing at Canadian National, which he had joined in 1995 as vice president of investor relations to assist the company’s privatization.

Foote began his railroad career in 1972 as a laborer in the mechanical department with the Soo Line Railroad in Superior, Wisconsin.

For nine years, he worked in operating positions with the Soo Line and the Chicago & North Western fulltime while earning his undergraduate and law degrees.

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What Now for CSX? Foote Seen by Analysts as Staying as CEO, at Least in the Short Term

December 19, 2017

It remains an open question whether James. M. Foote will lead CSX long term, but many analysts believe the CSX board of directors will keep him in the short term as acting CEO in order to provide stability.

Foote became the acting CEO last Thursday after CEO E. Hunter Harrison took a medical leave of absence for a still undisclosed illness. Harrison died at his Florida home on Saturday.

“I do expect Jim to be named CEO, although I also think the board will proactively study (and look to fill) any gaps in the team,” said Taylor Glasebrook, associate portfolio manager at Neuberger Berman, the No. 8 shareholder in CSX with 10.5 million shares.

“We believe that Mr. Foote’s presence in the senior leadership team provides an important source of continuity,” Cherilyn Radbourne, a TD Securities analyst, wrote in a note to clients.

But Radbourne also noted, as have others, that Foote lacks experience in operations, having spent most of his four decade railroad career in marketing and sales.

“Our biggest concern is that Mr. Foote’s primary area of expertise is sales and marketing versus operations, and the senior management team now lacks a member with an operating background,” Radbourne wrote.

“He is a competent, experienced railroader who is familiar with precision railroading,” said John Larkin, an analyst with Stifel Equity Research. “He has been in place for a couple of months and has a head start on any others. The company has underdone enough uncertainty over the past couple of years and needs some stability.”

What Harrison’s death means for CSX in the long term is being debated by railroad industry observers.

“Harrison’s legendary ability to redesign a rail network with his Precision Scheduled Railroading model created the two most efficient operations in North America and we believe his legacy will continue at CSX,” J.P. Morgan analyst Brian Ossenbeck wrote on Sunday.

But Renny Ponvert, CEO of Management CV Inc., which analyzes top hires for money managers, told The Wall Street Journal, that hiring Harrison “was a classic triumph of short-term thinking over long-term sustainability.”

Povert said the CSX board “took a high-beta risk that appeared to pay off for the first six months. Now, they’re stuck with a consequence that could expose long-term shareholders.”

Bloomberg columnist Brooke Sutherland summed up what happened in the lead to her story this way: “CSX Corp. shareholders paid $84 million for Hunter Harrison. They’re now getting James Foote.”

In January when word got out that Harrison and the Mantle Ridge hedge fund were targeting CSX, the company’s stock value jumped 23 percent in one day.

One news report said CSX stock value has risen 48 percent this year and about 6 percent since March when Harrison took over.

The stock value fell on Friday about 10 percent, but then stabilized. On Monday CSX stock value rose 1.25 percent to $53.42.

Investors will be looking to a January CSX announcement of its fourth quarter 2017 performance for clues as to what the company plans to do going forward.

CSX also plans to hold an investors conference next March. By then the board may have already named Foote the permanent CEO and hired a chief operating officer.

Before his death, Harrison had purged the top executive ranks of most CSX holdovers.

Most of that shakeup came in late October and also brought Foote to the company to oversee operations and marketing.

Harrison had also been bringing in former Canadian National managers who understand his precision scheduled railroading model.

During a series of “Hunter camps,” which were intensive seminars led by Harrison himself that explained the concepts of precision scheduled railroading, he had identified what he termed “rock stars” who showed promise of understanding the model and being able to implement it.

CSX has signaled that it intends to continue to operate on the PSR model but some analysts have been debating whether it has the management team it needs to continue to oversee it.

Foote contended last Friday before Harrison death that most of the work in implementing PSR has been done and CSX had the people in place to fine tune things.

Some believe Foote and the current CSX management team might be better suited than was Harrison to soothe relations with shippers and employees who were upset at the rapid pace of change that Harrison brought to CSX and which resulted in service issues during the summer and early fall.

Yet some continue to doubt that Foote is the long-term answer for CSX.

“Even though Jim Foote is a capable leader we do not see him as the long-term solution as the CEO given his strength is marketing and the company is embarking on an operations-focused turnaround,” Cowen and Co. analyst Jason Seidl said in a note.

There has also been speculation in the wake of Harrison’s death that some CSX shareholders might launch litigation against the CSX board for breach of duty for having hired a CEO they knew had health issues.

The board had initially demanded that Harrison submit his medical records for review by an independent physician.

Harrison refused and the board backed down after Harrison submitted a letter from his doctor saying he was fit for the job.

One news account quoted two unnamed corporate attorneys as saying it might be difficult to win such a lawsuit because of Harrison’s known medical condition.

Harrison’s CSX Legacy Gets an Incomplete

December 17, 2017

Shortly after I learned on Saturday afternoon about the death of CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison, I logged into Trainorders.com to get a sense of how railfans were reacting to the news.

As I expected, many, although not all, posters wrote harsh, bitter and even over the top comments along the lines of “good riddance.”

A poster who goes by the screen name Darkcloud wrote, in part, “While it might be sad for his family, he ruined a lot of lives of rail workers who didn’t have the safety net of wealth to fall back on that he and his family do. Good men with good records fired under false pretenses or minor errors. Fired to ‘send a message’ or to save a few more dollars to pay for [the] obscene salary he demanded when already a set for life multi-millionaire.”

The business press by contrast offered a more gentile and longer view of Harrison’s passing.

Typical of those accounts was one published at Bloomberg.com that described Harrison as a turnaround chief executive officer.

“By relying on a strategy of cutting costs and implementing procedures to make all parts of the operation more efficient, Harrison transformed Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., Canadian National Railways Co. and Illinois Central Corp. into rail industry leaders. His reputation among analysts and investors was so strong that CSX shares jumped 23 percent on a single day in January 2017 when reports emerged that Harrison was in talks to take the helm,” Bloomberg reporter Frederic Tomesco wrote.

Can these disparate points of view be reconciled? Yes, if you keep in mind that how you view Ewing Hunter Harrison is shaped by the angle from which you view him.

History books are more likely to portray Harrison in the manner that Bloomberg did than with the emotionally wrought language often employed on chat lists.

And yet both speak to the same point. Harrison was a controversial but hard to ignore figure revered on Wall Street and respected by business writers and railroad trade journals, but often loathed by many who worked on his railroads.

There is no denying that Harrison will be remembered for his concept of precision scheduled railroading that he honed on the IC and then took to CN, CP and CSX.

There also is no denying that the tools that Harrison used to make his railroads more efficient included reducing payroll and demanding in no uncertain terms that workers and manager do things his way.

He lived by the credo of doing more with less; that meant fewer employees and assets, and pushing to get a little more out of both than his predecessors had done.

“Run a tight ship, and you can expect a reasonable return; manage it badly, and the sheer weight of assets will sink you,” Harrison wrote in his 2005 book How We Work and Why: Running a Precision Railroad

Harrison sought to frame himself as concerned with the welfare of his railroad’s employees and even hinted that he was pro labor. Yet at CP he ordered mid-level managers to learn how to operate trains in the event that the unions went on strike.

Likewise, Harrison sought to frame what he was doing at CSX as in the best interests of the railroad’s shippers even as many of those shippers flooded the U.S. Surface Transportation Board with complaints about shoddy service.

CSX acknowledged having service issues during the transition to the precision scheduled railroading model.

But Harrison was an old school manager who saw himself as being in the railroading business and not necessarily the transportation business, a viewpoint that was not unique to him.

He would never accept the premise of that statement, but even by his own words, Harrison acknowledged that CSX was trying to get shippers to change their behavior rather than the other way around.

A few weeks ago he dismissed shipper complaints as long-standing efforts by shipper trade groups to get the federal government to impose regulations on railroads.

This spoke to a paternalistic bent of “I know what is best for you” that no doubt irritated some CSX customers. What is best for shippers is not always what is best for CSX and vice versa.

Of late, Harrison and CSX executives had been touting the improvements that the railroad has made in such metrics as average train speed and dwell time of cars in classification yards.

Some of Harrison’s critics and even his admirers have wondered if precision scheduled railroading could work at CSX with its labyrinth route network and more complex mix of traffic than IC, CN or CP.

We’ll never fully know the answer to that question because Harrison won’t be around to see the process through. His CSX legacy is and always will be incomplete.

He led CSX for less than a year and although the surviving managers are likely to continue the precision scheduled railroading model, they won’t have Harrison around to lean on for guidance, leadership and inspiration.

Whatever successes or failures that CSX has in the coming months and years will be on those managers and not Harrison even if he established the direction that the railroad is going.

I’ve always believed that our society places too much emphasis on the efforts of individual presidents and chief executive officers.

We see them as larger than life figures and tend to attribute to them an organization’s good and bad behavior at all levels.

To be sure, the man or woman at the top sets a tone that percolates downward through the top managers that he or she hired and oversees. Some CEO’s do better at that than others.

Yet the focus on personality can overlook the context in which the top executive operates and might attribute to personality what is actually the work of culture and external forces and how an organization responds to those.

Yes, the personality, talent and skill of the CEO play a role in organizational behavior, but Class 1 railroads are complex organizations that engage in multiple juggling acts to seek to satisfy multiple masters.

Whether you thought Harrison did that well or not depends on your perspective as the commentary about his passing well illustrates. But critics and admirers both can agree that he was a towering figure in the railroad industry who stood over many of his peers and will be remembered for much longer than many of them because of his efforts to be a transformative leader.

Harrison on Medical Leave From CSX

December 15, 2017

CSX announced Thursday night that CEO E. Hunter Harrison has taken a medical leave of absence and Chief Operating Officer James Foote is serving as acting CEO.

E. Hunter Harrison

The announcement said Harrison is dealing with complications from a recent illness.

A conference call was to be held on Friday morning to discuss the situation.

Harrison has been thought to have health issues for some time. It was reported earlier this year that he sometimes uses supplemental oxygen and that due to an undisclosed illness he has curtailed his traveling.

Concerns about Harrison’s health had been an issue early this year after hedge fund Mantle Ridge acquired a block of CSX stock and pushed for the company to make him CEO.

The CSX board of directors had demanded that Harrison’s medical records be examined by independent physicians, but he declined and the demand was later dropped.

Foote worked with Harrison years ago at Canadian National and was brought to CSX this past October with the idea of eventually succeeding Harrison as CEO of CSX.

“Hunter is a good friend and has been a colleague of mine for many years. He is an icon in the industry and we pray for his speedy recovery,” Foote said in a statement. “I have been following the CSX story very closely since January, but did not realize just how much progress Hunter and CSX’s able team have made replicating the transformation we effected at Canadian National some years ago.”

Harrison agreed to a four-year contract when he agreed to become CEO of CSX.

In his statement, Foote said that the precision scheduled railroading operating model is well in place at CSX and “the company has amassed the critical talent – through education of the internal team and supplementation with a complement of strong PSR operating veterans and a strongly supportive Board – sufficient to follow through and execute on the PSR operating plan.”

New CSX Executive to be Paid More Than Predecessors

November 3, 2017

The new transportation chief operating officer at CSX will make more base salary than his predecessors.

Trains magazine reported Thursday that James Foote reaped a $400,000 signing bonus and will be paid more than either Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn or Chief Marketing Officer Fredrik Eliasson.

Foote, a former Canadian National executive, will earn a $750,000 annual base salary under the terms of a four-year contract that was disclosed in a CSX regulatory filing earlier this week.

By contrast, the base salary of Eliasson was $600,000, while Sanborn was paid $550,000.

Both CSX executives, who will be leaving the company in mid November, also earned more than $1.3 million in cash-based compensation in 2016, a figure that rises to more than $3.7 million when stock awards are included.

Foote, who formerly worked at CN with CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison, agreed to a $2 million sign-on equity award, which is half performance-based and half stock options. He will participate in the same incentive bonus plan other CSX executives.

CSX Management Shakeup Spooks Some Investors

October 27, 2017

The fallout over a CSX executive leadership shakeup has spooked some investors and sent the railroad’s stock price tumbling.

At close of business on Thursday, the CSX price per share had dropped 2.60 percent to $52.92. In after-hours trading, the decline increased to 3.82 percent, to $50.92.

Cowen and Company Managing Director Jason Seidl told Railway Age magazine that his firm has received numerous calls from investors about the changes, which have Chief Marketing Officer Frederick Eliasson, Chief Operating Office Cindy Sanborn, and General Counsel Ellen Fitzsimmons leaving CSX in mid November.

CSX also canceled an Oct. 30 investors meeting that was to have been held in Florida and used as a forum to discuss the railroad’s future operating plans.

“There was no specific reason given for the Investor Day cancellation, but one would have to imagine the sudden departure of CSX’s CMO, COO and general counsel are primary factors,” Seidl said.

At the same time that CSX announced the departures of three top executives, it said it was bringing on board a former Canadian National manager who worked there with CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison.

James Foote will assume the post of CSX chief operating officer and replace both Sanborn and Eliasson.

Akron Railroad Club member H. Roger Grant told Trains magazine that a management shakeup of the scale of that which occurred at CSX this week is unprecedented in the industry.

“I can’t think of another example of such a sweep of top executives,” said Grant, a professor of history at Clemson University and author of several books about railroads.

The changes will leave only Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro from the management team of former CSX CEO Michael Ward.

Siedl said some investors believe there is more going on at CSX than has been disclosed thus far.

“We do not think the departure of these three people, long-tenured executives at the firm, came on completely amicable terms,” he said. “We think their departure could further disenfranchise additional employees, many of which may blame current management for their departures. This would be something the railroad does not need as it attempts to improve its well-publicized service issues. We expect CSX shares to underperform those of its peers in the near-term or until an explanation is given that can assuage investors’ anxieties.”

In a news release announcing the management changes, CSX said that Sanborn and Eliasson were leaving to pursue other opportunities.

That wording is often used by companies to mask a firing or an employee otherwise leaving involuntarily. Fitzsimmons was said to be retiring.

Trains reported that some industry observers were surprised that the management changes were disclosed less than a week before the investor day event and while the railroad remains under scrutiny of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in the wake of a summer of service disruptions.

Yet others said they were surprised that Harrison, who became CEO in March, waited this long to make major management changes.

The management shakeup mirrors what Harrison did when he became CEO at Canadian Pacific in bringing in executives from Canadian National, where Harrison had also served as the top executive, to oversee the transition to the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

However, Trains reported that at CP changes in top executives occurred over a five-month period and not in a single day.

The magazine said that concerns about Harrison’s health — he has an undisclosed medical condition that limits his travel and forces him to rely on supplemental oxygen — may have had something to do with the timing of the changes.

Harrison had said during a conference call to discuss CSX’s third quarter earnings that the issue of who would succeed him might be addressed during the investor conference in late October.

At CN, Foote was the carrier’s chief sales and marketing officer between 2000 and 2009. He left CN after Claude Mongeau was named to succeed Harrison as CEO.

Foote, who is now president and CEO of Bright Rail Energy, which oversees converting locomotives to be powered by natural gas, does not have railroad operating experience even though Harrison wrote in a memo to CSX employees that Foot “has a proven track record with implementing precision scheduled railroading and  . . . more than 40 years of railroad industry experience.”

One Wall Street analyst told Trains that Foote knows Harrison’s operating philosophy and what’s expected at a Harrison-led railroad.

“Foote could be the trusted, proven railroader that could be a solid backup for Hunter,” said John Larkin, an analyst with Stifel Equity Research. “Just being part of the senior team at CN was kin to accumulating operating experience.”

Yet Trains quoted another source as saying lack of direct operating experience could be a liability.

“Credibility with ops people comes from working day and night in the field,” said the source, who was not named. “If, for example, you haven’t changed a knuckle 50 cars from the head-end in blinding rain at 2 a.m., you won’t have much credibility among the ranks of T&E personnel, superintendents, and trainmasters. These are the people who get trains over the road and want to be led by people who know their daily grind.”

Larkin said Foote might be a short-term successor while CSX grooms Lonegro to be its next CEO if Harrison has to step down or he does not continue after his four-year contract ends.

Foote is not the first former CN manager hired by Harrison at CSX. Approximately 15 people who worked at CN have been hired in operations at CSX.

In return for being released early from his contract at CP, Harrison had to agree not to poach any of that carrier’s top managers.

However, he was able to bring from CP Mark Wallace, who is now CSX’s executive vice president and chief of staff.

NS Names Earhart as Chief Financial Officer

August 20, 2017

Cynthia C. Earhart has been appointed by Norfolk Southern to the post of executive vice president and chief financial officer

Earhart

Earhart, a certified public accountant who joined NS in 1985, will replace Vice President and Controller Thomas E. Hurlbut, who has served as interim CFO since the 2017 retirement of Marta R. Stewart.

Earhart most recently served as executive vice president  and chief information officer. She will retain her information technology responsibilities.

Other positions that Earhart has held at NS include assistant vice president,  vice president of information technology and vice president of human resources.

Prior to working at NS, Earhart was employed as an accountant at Ernst & Young predecessor CPA firm Ernst and Whinney.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Missouri and has completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.

Ex-Conrail Head Named FRA Director

July 12, 2017

A former Conrail executive has been named by President Donald Trump to serve as administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Ronald Batory

Ronald L. Batory has more than 45 years of railroad industry experience and until March 31 served as president and chief operating officer of Consolidated Rail Corporation.

Batory joined Conrail in 1998 as vice president-operations and was appointed COO in 2004.

Previously, he served as president of the Belt Railway of Chicago. His career includes more than 20 years working for eastern and western Class I railroads as well as assisting a court-appointed trustee’s oversight of a regional railroad bankruptcy.

His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. The FRA is currently without a director although deputy administrator Heath Hall assumed his position on June 23.

Observers Give Their Take on New Amtrak CEO

June 29, 2017

So who is this former airline executive that Amtrak has chosen to take over as its CEO later this year when Charles “Wick” Moorman retires?

Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson was the head of Delta Air Lines, but he also at one time served as a prosecutor and the vice president of an insurance company, United Health.

His father, Hale, worked for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe in Texas and the family moved multiple times as the elder Anderson held office jobs at posts from Galveston to Dallas and Amarillo.

When he was in college, the younger Anderson’s parents died of cancer and he subsequently had to raise his two younger sisters as he worked to earn college tuition money.

After earning his law degree, Anderson worked in Texas for nearly a decade as a prosecutor.

His entry into the airline industry began in the legal department of Houston-based Continental Airlines.

He would later join Northwest Airlines and became its CEO three years later. As Delta Air Lines was emerging from bankruptcy in 2007, its board of directors asked Anderson to become its CEO, which meant that he succeeded Gerald Grinstein, a former CEO of the Burlington Northern Railroad.

“Richard has a hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves, let-me-see-how-this-thing-really-works kind of approach,” John Dasburg, Northwest’s former president, told USA Today in 2008.

During his time at Delta, Anderson sometimes sought unconventional solutions to solve problems.

For example, in an effort to cut fuel costs, Delta purchased an oil refinery near Philadelphia in 2012.

Industry reaction to Anderson being named co-CEO of Amtrak – Moorman won’t be retiring until late December – has been mostly positive.

He received unqualified endorsements from Linda Bauer Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Rail Road Association, and from Ed Hamberger, the president of the Association of American Railroads.

Jim Mathews, head of the National Association of Railroad Passengers lauded Anderson’s transportation experience.

“NARP is very pleased Amtrak is making the sensible move of bringing in an executive with strong management experience in a customer-service oriented transportation company,” Mathews said.

Former NARP executive director Ross Capon said the fact that Moorman will be Amtrak’s co-CEO through December shows the two men will likely have a good working relationship and that Anderson will be able to learn from Moorman.

Not all advocacy groups were enthusiastic about Anderson’s appointment.

Charles Leocha, chairman of Travelers United and an airline consumer advocate, said in an interview with Trains magazine that Anderson is “a real charger” who “has not been a friend of consumers, but ran an efficient airline as consolidation was completed . . .”

Richard Rudolph, the president of the Rail Users Network, said Amtrak needs someone who knows railroads, knows how to run a company and can stand up against Congress and President Donald Trump.

Also expressing skepticism was former Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn.

“If he can’t coax people at Amtrak who know how to run a railroad out of their fox holes, he’s doomed,” Gunn said in an interview with Trains. “And you have to convince them you have a plan that makes sense operationally and is not driven by politics.”

Gunn said the best hope is that Anderson has some knowledge of railroad operations.”

Jackson McQuigg, a railroad historian and passenger advocate based in Atlanta, told Trains that he sees in Anderson a man with a demeanor similar to that of W. Graham Claytor Jr. between 1982 and 1993.

“He had a stellar reputation in Atlanta and cared about the city and its history,” McQuigg told Trains.

While at Delta and Northwest, McQuigg noted, Anderson had a reputation for being a tough guy who wasn’t afraid to mix it up with the airline unions.

“Maybe that bunch in the White House will listen to him,” McQuigg said of Anderson. “It will be interesting to see if that happens or if Anderson presides over dismemberment instead. All I know is that the long-distance trains had better be preserved or the whole thing will go up in political flames.”

Richard Anderson to become Co-CEO on July 12, Wick Moorman Plans to Retire December 31

June 26, 2017

Amtrak will be getting a co-president and CEO next month. Charles “Wick” Moorman will be joined by Richard Anderson, who has 25 years of experience in the airline industry.

This arrangement will continue until Dec. 31, when Moorman plans to step down from his position at Amtrak but continue as an adviser to the company.

The announcement was made in an internal memorandum sent to Amtrak employees and confirmed by a statement issued by Amtrak.

In the memo to employees, Moorman noted that he promised his wife that he time at Amtrak would be short.

Moorman said he said he would stay at Amtrak only as long it took to achieve three goals: Making the company more efficient, developing a stronger safety culture and working with the board of directors to find an executive to lead the railroad long term.

Anderson is a former chief executive at Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, the latter having been acquired by the former.

“Richard has a proven track record of driving growth while enhancing the customer experience,” Moorman said. “What I really admire about Richard is he faces difficult challenges head-on. He has helped companies navigate bankruptcy, a recession, mergers and acquisitions, and 9/11. In total, Richard is a leader with the strategic vision and tactical experience necessary to run a railroad that benefits our partners, our customers and our employees.”

The statement noted that Anderson’s father worked for the Santa Fe.

Anderson, 62, most recently was executive chairman of the Delta Air Lines board of directors after serving as the airline’s CEO from 2007 to 2016. He was executive vice president at United Healthcare from  2004 to 2007 and CEO of Northwest Airlines from 2001 to 2004.

He also served in the legal division at Continental Airlines and was a former county prosecutor.

“It is an honor to join Amtrak at a time when passenger rail service is growing in importance in America. I look forward to working  alongside Amtrak’s dedicated employees to continue the improvements  begun by Wick,” Anderson said in a statement.

Anderson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Houston at Clear Lake City and a Juris Doctorate at South Texas College of Law. He is a native of Galveston, Texas.