January 30, 2018

Coyote executive suite continues to churn; COO, CCO have left, sources say

Sources say UPS wants Silver, Coyote founder, to take more active role at brokerage unit.

By Mark B. Solomon

About 30 months after being acquired for $1.8 billion by UPS Inc. in its biggest acquisition ever, freight broker Coyote Logistics is experiencing some meaningful executive churn.

Jim Sharman, Chicago-based Coyote's chief operating officer, and John Leach, its chief commercial officer, have departed over the past few days, according to multiple people familiar with the situation at the UPS unit. Jodi Navta, who had been Coyote's chief marketing officer and its long-time de facto spokeswoman, left the company in late 2017, these sources said.

At the same time, sources said that Jonathan Sisler, who was promoted to president of Coyote from CFO following UPS' July 2015 acquisition, has been skating on thin ice with UPS. One source said UPS has been trying to convince Jeff Silver, who founded Coyote in 2006 with his wife Marianne, to take a more active day-to-day role of running the company. Silver, who relinquished the president's title but remains its CEO, currently works for UPS in its Advanced Technology Group. Marianne Silver remains Coyote's chief people officer.

One source said that Coyote's volume during the recently concluded peak holiday season was disappointing, and that Coyote turned off some of its large and long-time customers during the peak by focusing more on moving UPS' freight than on handling their goods.

An executive close to UPS, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the Coyote unit is performing well, that UPS is getting good mileage out of Coyote's capabilities, and that Sharman and Leach departed because they sought better opportunities elsewhere. The executive would not comment on assertions that UPS is dissatisfied with Sisler's performance. UPS does not break out Coyote's quarterly results, instead folding them into its Supply Chain and Freight unit, one of its three operating units. UPS reports its fourth-quarter results on Thursday.

When UPS acquired Coyote, it was mindful of the stark cultural differences between the two organizations. Coyote is mostly staffed with young, hard-charging employees who function in a boisterous and free-wheeling workplace environment. The culture at Atlanta-based UPS, by contrast, is traditional, conservative, and buttoned-down. In the past two-and-a-half years, UPS has kept Coyote as a separate operation, and has let it work on its own. This is out of character for UPS, which has been known to effectively pull acquisitions into the corporate vortex almost as soon as a deal closes.

After two-and-a-half years with Coyote, however, UPS may be ready to change the status quo. "UPS didn't get to be UPS by letting kids be renegades," according to a high-level consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A more compelling business reason for UPS to bring Coyote deeper into the fold is that UPS wants all of its operations to run as one massive business unit, and that Coyote's long-time focus on its customers, rather than on the larger universe of UPS shippers, is not to the parent's liking, the consultant said. "Coyote has long been Coyote customer-focused, not UPS customer-focused," the consultant said. "That's going to change."

In what may be a related development, Alan Gershenhorn, a 38-year UPS veteran who in mid-2014 was tapped for the newly created post of chief commercial officer, will retire in June, UPS said today. Gershenhorn has oversight of Coyote, and is believed to have lobbied strongly for the acquisition 2015, according to one of the sources.

About the Author

Mark B. Solomon
Executive Editor - News
Mark Solomon joined DC VELOCITY as senior editor in August 2008, and was promoted to his current position on January 1, 2015. He has spent more than 30 years in the transportation, logistics and supply chain management fields as a journalist and public relations professional. From 1989 to 1994, he worked in Washington as a reporter for the Journal of Commerce, covering the aviation and trucking industries, the Department of Transportation, Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to that, he worked for Traffic World for seven years in a similar role. From 1994 to 2008, Mr. Solomon ran Media-Based Solutions, a public relations firm based in Atlanta. He graduated in 1978 with a B.A. in journalism from The American University in Washington, D.C.

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