May 17, 2018

Coyote co-founder leaves UPS less than three years after acquisition

Jeff Silver, UPS parted ways several weeks ago, sources say.

By Mark B. Solomon

Less than three years after Coyote Logistics LLC, the freight broker he co-founded with his wife Marianne, was acquired by UPS Inc. for $1.8 billion, Jeff Silver has parted ways with Big Brown.

Silver, who last year took a position at UPS' advanced technology group, resigned within the past two to three weeks, according to two people familiar with the matter. Marianne Silver remains at the unit as its chief people officer, according to a UPS spokesman, who confirmed Jeff Silver's departure. The company said that Silver left of his own accord.

The couple founded Coyote in 2006 and built it into a billion-dollar-a-year broker before its acquisition. UPS purchased Chicago-based Coyote in July 2015 in the largest acquisition in its 111-year history. Silver retained the Coyote CEO title after moving to the parent, but he relinquished day-to-day responsibilities.

Jonathan Sisler remains Coyote's president. However, Geoff Kelley, a long-time UPS executive who has headed up the Coyote transition team, has taken on a more prominent role in the unit's affairs, according to one of the people. A UPS spokesman declined to comment on any other personnel decisions at the Coyote unit. Coyote continues to contribute to UPS's growth and profitability. UPS folds Coyote's financial results into its supply chain and freight business unit, and thus doesn't separately disclose the unit's financial performance.

Atlanta-based UPS originally structured Coyote as a wholly owned subsidiary, instead of immediately absorbing it into the larger operation as it has done with other acquisitions. UPS also pledged to let the unit continue with its freewheeling modus operandi even though it contrasted greatly with UPS' own culture. Now, however, UPS has clamped down hard on the unit, according to the people. "UPS has Coyote in a chokehold," said one.

Tension had been building between Jeff Silver and UPS executives, many of whom thought that Silver, despite being a brilliant visionary, had too independent a personality to suit UPS' consensus-driven environment. Few at the parent were unhappy that Silver resigned, one of these people said. As far back as mid-2015, when the deal was consummated, observers were questioning whether the UPS and Coyote cultures could mesh beyond the standard honeymoon period. They also suggested it was simply a matter of time before the entrepreneurial Silvers would leave UPS.

Coyote has seen several top people leave in the past 8 months. Jim Sharman, its COO, and John Leach, its chief commercial officer, departed in January. Jodi Navta, who was chief marketing officer and long-time spokeswoman, left the company in late 2017.

Coyote came of age as Chicago began developing a worldwide reputation for its flamboyant logistics mindset. For generations a transportation hotbed because of its location in the country's midsection, Chicago in recent years has become a magnet for non-asset-based firms like brokers and third-party logistics (3PL) providers that understand the melding of physical distribution and information-technology skills, and that push hard to sell their services. An article appearing earlier this week on the financial website Marketwatch quoted Bobby Harris, CEO of Chicago-based 3PL BlueGrace Logistics LLC, telling Crain's Chicago Business that the city had become the "Hollywood of Logistics."

Young, smart people looking to make serious money have gravitated to Chicago to take positions on their employers' brokerage floors and aggressively buy and sell freight capacity. The Chicago brokerage floors, like trading floors in other industries, have become notorious for off-color banter and a "work hard, play hard" attitude.

Coyote's success stemmed largely from the Silvers' ability to recruit and develop talented employees, then let them do their jobs, said one of the people. "Much has been made of Coyote's technology, but the strength of the company was its people," the person said.

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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