CSX Corp. on Dec. 22 named James Foote as president and chief executive officer, effective immediately. Formerly chief operating officer, Foote had been acting CEO since Dec. 14 after E. Hunter Harrison was placed on medical leave.
Harrison died Dec. 16. Foote will also join the CSX Board of Directors.
Foote, a senior executive with more than 40 years of railroad industry experience in finance, operations and sales and marketing, was named Executive Vice President and COO of CSX in October 2017. Prior to joining CSX, He was President and CEO of Bright Rail Energy, a technology company formed in 2012 to design, develop and sell products that allow railroads to convert locomotives to natural gas power.
Before heading Bright Rail, Foote was Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing with CN, which he joined in 1995 as Vice President of Investor Relations to assist the company’s privatization. He also served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing-Merchandise. Foote began his career in the railroad industry in 1972 as a laborer in the mechanical department with the Soo Line Railroad in Superior, Wisc. For nine years, he worked union operating positions with Soo Line and Chicago & North Western full time while earning his undergraduate and law degrees.
“I worked alongside Hunter for more than a decade,” said Foote. “His pioneering approach to railroading unlocked significant efficiencies and value, and we remain focused on delivering on this vision for CSX, our customers and our shareholders. The execution of Precision Scheduled Railroading is well under way, with the most critical components of the implementation completed and beginning to generate measurable operating improvement. We look forward to providing an update on our strategic progress and to showcase our deeply talented management team at our upcoming investor day in March.”
“While we continue to mourn the loss of Hunter Harrison, the Board of Directors is pleased to announce Jim Foote as his successor,” said CSX Chairman Edward J. Kelly III. “Jim has decades of railroading experience, and the Board is confident of his ability to lead the company. He has already had a markedly positive impact. The Board looks forward to working with him.”
In related news, CSX is reconsidering its decision to withdraw from the Howard Street Tunnel double-stack clearance project in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun reported on Dec. 19 that members of Maryland’s congressional delegation, representatives of Gov. Larry Hogan, and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh met with Jim Foote to discuss CSX’s position. Sen. Ben Cardin told newspaper that Foote “agreed to have an open mind” about the tunnel.
CSX was officially non-committal: “CSX had a productive discussion about the Howard Street Tunnel with the Maryland Congressional delegation and representatives from the offices of Gov. Hogan and Mayor Pugh,” a spokesman said. “CSX appreciates the partnership we have developed with the state, city and port, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue with them about our plans moving forward.”
The late E. Hunter Harrison cancelled the $425 million project, a public-private partnership that would have relied on a combination of federal, state, and CSX funding, telling a Nov. 29 investor conference that he’s philosophically opposed to receiving government money and that the East Coast has too many ports competing for traffic. “When you start taking their money, they want to try to tell you how to run your company—and they ought be able to,” Harrison said. “Nobody wants to be told their port’s not the super port. But somebody’s got to wake up to that. And sometimes it’s got to be us by saying we can’t invest in that with shareholder money because it’s not a good investment.”
CSX had been committed to investing $145 million, while the Maryland Department of Transportation had earmarked $125 million. Maryland officials in December 2016 had applied for a $155 million federal FASTLANE grant, then reapplied this past summer after the Trump Administration changed the program requirements.