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Hunter Harrison, CEO Of Jacksonville-based CSX, Has Died

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Via News4Jax
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Hunter Harrison (Photo: CSX website) on image of CSX locomotives.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that E. Hunter Harrison, President and Chief Executive Officer of CSX, died today in Wellington, Fla., due to unexpectedly severe complications from a recent illness,” according to a Saturday statement from CSX.

"With the passing of Hunter Harrison, CSX has suffered a major loss. Notwithstanding that loss, the Board is confident that Jim Foote, as acting Chief Executive Officer, and the rest of the CSX team will capitalize on the changes that Hunter has made. The Board will continue to consider in a deliberative way how best to maximize CSX’s performance over the long term,” said Edward J. Kelly III, Chairman of the CSX Board of Directors in the statement.

CSX first announced a medical leave for Harrison on Thursday and at that point announced Jim Foote was taking over as acting CEO.

The Jacksonville-based railroad didn't release other details surrounding the circumstances that led to Harrison's death.

Harrison, who was 73, used an oxygen tank.

“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,” Foote said in a Thursday statement.  Before being appointed as the acting Chief Executive Officer Foote served as the Chief Operating Officer.

Harrison joined CSX following former CEO Michael Ward’s retirement this past spring. Ward had originally planned to work through 2019, but he and some other executives left after a push to bring Harrison aboard by Paul Hilal's Mantle Ridge hedge fund.

CSX also went through a recent “involuntary separation with 1,000 workers,” the majority of which were in the Jacksonville corporate office and its subsidiaries earlier this year. In 2016, CSX cut 2,500 workers as coal shipping declined.

“I believe that the battleship has turned, the Precision Scheduled Railroading framework has been put into place, 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,” said acting CEO Foote in a Thursday statement.

The Precision Scheduled Railroading framework, which aims to improve efficiency, was Harrison’s signature initiative.

CSX ended stock trading on Friday down 7.64% to close at $52.93 a share.

You can see the latest CSX stock quote and a history of the stock here.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.