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November 2017

Rail News: People

From the editor: On the leadership changes at CSX

By Pat Foran, Editor

As this issue went to press, the rail industry was still buzzing about last month's management shake-up at CSX Corp., a change that stunned some while surprising others primarily in the announcement’s timing.

On Oct. 25, CSX issued a press release stating that three of its top executives — Cindy Sanborn, Fredrik Eliasson and Ellen Fitzsimmons — would leave CSX on Nov. 15. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sanborn and EVP and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Eliasson would resign to "pursue other interests." Eliasson and Sanborn had been viewed as potential successors to CSX President and CEO E. Hunter Harrison. Fitzsimmons, who serves as EVP of law and public affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary, would retire. All three "will remain engaged in supporting the transition until early 2018," CSX officials said.

Meanwhile, Jim Foote has joined the company as COO and will take over the responsibilities of both Sanborn and Eliasson — prompting some now to consider Foote to be Harrison’s successor. Foote has more than 40 years of rail experience, including stints with the Chicago and North Western Railroad as well as CN, where, as EVP of sales and marketing, he worked closely with Harrison. Most recently, Foote was president and CEO of Bright Rail Energy.

The changes came as CSX continues to try to resolve service issues after implementing the precision scheduled railroading (PSR) operating model. Last month, the Surface Transportation Board held a "listening session" for shippers and other stakeholders to express concerns about the Class I's service problems. Harrison recently said CSX is making progress implementing PSR.

After announcing the leadership changes, CSX postponed an investor conference that had been scheduled for Oct. 30 to a "later date," which some analysts figured meant some time in first-quarter 2018.

"Our team continues to build momentum, and the addition of [Foote] increases my confidence in our ability to serve customers and deliver shareholder value," Harrison said in a press release. "I am more confident than ever in CSX's ability to achieve industry leading operating and financial performance and look forward to showcasing our leadership team at a future date."

So who will succeed Harrison? The possibilities abounded, or seemed to as of press time. Citing a quote from former Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully following Kirk Gibson's epic World Series home run in 1988 — "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!" — independent rail-industry analyst Tony Hatch was among those rail observers unwilling to make a prediction last month. As Hatch noted in an Oct. 27 email to his clients: "As this [CSX] drama unfolds, I must always heed Scully's wisdom."

We'll heed it, too. In the meantime, we’ll relay CSX news as we receive it.


Browse articles on CSX Corp. Cindy Sanborn Fredrik Eliasson Ellen Fitzsimmons E. Hunter Harrison Jim Foote precision scheduled railroading Tony Hatch

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