In what is seen as a nod to information technology's (IT's) growing relevance to transportation company operations, Expeditors Inc. today named its current chief information officer (CIO), Jeffrey S. Musser, as its incoming CEO. Musser will succeed the Seattle-based freight forwarding and logistics giant's current CEO, Peter J. Rose on March 1.
Musser, 47, has been with Expeditors for 31 years, the last nine as its CIO. He spent the previous 22 years in various executive positions at the district and regional levels.
Rose, 70, announced in October he would step down as the company's CEO in March but would remain as chairman until May 2015. Rose joined Expeditors in 1981 along with two other transport executives, James Wang and Glenn Alger, when the company consisted of one office in Seattle. In the ensuing decades, with Rose at the helm, Expeditors became a $6 billion-a-year global powerhouse and one of the most successful companies in transportation history.
Since it went public in 1984, Expeditors has generated double-digit annualized growth in earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) in all but four years, according to Robert W. Baird & Co., an investment firm. From March 1990 through October 2013, Expeditors stock rose 5,591 percent.
Benjamin J. Hartford, Baird's transportation analyst, said Musser's selection validates the increasing importance of a company's technological prowess as a competitive differentiator in the international forwarding industry. "We believe the choice of Musser...is reflective of the integral nature of IT" to Expeditors' success, Hartford wrote in a note today.
Hartford said Musser is intended to be a "generational leader" of Expeditors because of his youth and because he possesses values similar to that of Rose. Musser's experience at Expeditors over the last three decades "provides intimate knowledge of the company's unique culture," Hartford said.
Replacing Rose will be no easy task. During his long tenure, Rose became known as much for his iconoclastic wit as his business acumen. He rarely granted interviews, reserving most of his comments for the company's "8-K" forms, financial disclosure statements that give managers free rein to discuss anything on their minds that might be important to investors. In the documents, Rose and R. Jordon Gates, Expeditors' president and chief operating officer, would provide lively and colorful analysis and answer questions—often in a sardonic manner—preselected by the company from the many queries it would receive.
Rose placed an enormous premium on his employees, knowing their expertise and intelligence would be critical to customers that are increasingly demanding knowledge-based solutions to difficult global problems. In return, Expeditors' employees, motivated by a non-layoff policy and an ever-increasing stock price, were fiercely loyal to the company and its chairman.