One day after announcing that CEO Hunter Harrison would take medical leave for an unspecified illness, CSX Corp confirmed Dec. 16 that Harrison has died. Hired in March to turn around the flagging railway giant, Harrison was 73.
"Hunter was a larger-than-life figure who brought his remarkable passion, experience and energy in railroading to CSX," the company said in a statement.
Harrison had succeeded in reviving the transportation company's fortunes; the company’s share price had increased more than 50% since the end of 2016 before plummeting on Dec. 15 after news of Harrison's illness emerged.
CSX is in the process of transitioning to a new "precision railroad service," and the shift has caused problems with at least one major customer. Coal company Murray Energy Corp. last month said it was dropping the cases it had filed in federal courts and before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board against CSX subsidiary CSX Transportation Inc. over service delays and other transportation problems.
COO Jim Foote will serve as acting CEO, the company said.
"With the passing of Hunter Harrison, CSX has suffered a major loss," said Edward Kelly III, CSX board chairman, in a statement. "Notwithstanding that loss, the Board is confident that Jim Foote, as acting Chief Executive Officer, and the rest of the CSX team will capitalize on the changes that Hunter has made."