Monday, May 20, 2024

C.H. Robinson going slow on a new CEO

A couple of weeks ago, it had become apparent by the many headlines that C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. (NASDAQ: CHRW) had zeroed in on Jim Barber, former chief operating officer of UPS Inc. (NYSE: UPS), to become its next CEO. 

As March draws to a close, either the board is being very deliberate, or it may be having second thoughts if Barber is who the nation’s largest freight broker needs at this time.

As of Wednesday, nothing had been announced. Barber hasn’t been ruled in or out. He is still considered the premier candidate to succeed Bob Biesterfeld, whom the board removed at the turn of the year. 

One industry executive said the board and its search committee, Russell Reynolds Associates, are being “too slow and indecisive” in tapping Barber. Barber, who joined Robinson’s board in December 2022, has a “great understanding of the value of 3PLs to the carrier partners and the shipper customers,” said the executive.

Like UPS CEO Carol B. Tomé, who had a deep understanding of UPS’ business after decades of collaboration with The Home Depot Inc. (NYSE: HD), where she was CFO, Barber knows how to bridge shipper-3PL-carrier relationships from his 37 years at UPS.

Brittain Ladd, a prominent logistics consultant, said it “seems strange” that Robinson hasn’t officially selected Barber. “This tells me [Robinson] moves slow or that Barber isn’t the guy,” Ladd said in an email. 

Ladd said it’s possible Robinson received pushback from investors who want the company to “do something big by picking a more technologically progressive CEO.” One of the concerns that has been raised is that Barber may not have the IT chops the board thinks is needed to fuse the company’s technology and transportation operations.

Ladd had suggested that Robinson acquire freight forwarder Flexport and name CEO Dave Clark to run the combined companies. Alternatively, it could merge with Danish shipping and logistics giant DSV and name Jens Bjorn Andersen CEO of the combined companies, Ladd said. A third option, said Ladd, would be to hire Lior Ron, Uber Freight’s CEO. Uber Freight is a division of car-hailing pioneer Uber (NYSE: UBER).

It’s not that the executive search has stretched into many months, and it is, after all, as high a profile position as exists in transportation, let alone brokerage. Robinson’s board may be fine right now in executing its strategy without pushing hard for a new CEO.

A Robinson spokeswoman said there is nothing new to disclose at this time.

Whoever moves into the CEO role will face the reality of an activist investor, Ancora Advisors, which in January signed a one-year extension of a standstill agreement that put two Ancora representatives on the Robinson board but with the promise that Ancora would not seek changes at the company for at least another year.

The post C.H. Robinson going slow on a new CEO appeared first on FreightWaves.

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