The CEO of Eden Prairie-based CH Robinson has abruptly resigned

CH Robinson CEO Bob Biesterfeld resigned Saturday, and Scott Anderson, the company’s board chairman, is now interim CEO.

The filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday specifically stated that Biesterfeld’s departure was considered “an involuntary termination by the company without cause.”

The Eden Prairie-based company gave no reason for the sudden switch in its public announcement Tuesday morning. The logistics and freight giant has retained leading national executive search firm Russell Reynolds to find a permanent replacement.

Stephens Inc. analyst Jack Atkins said that the pressure on the company’s top leader has been increasing for some time.

“In our view, this transition has been set in recent months,” Atkins said in a note to investors on Tuesday.

With Anderson’s appointment as interim CEO, Jodee Kozlak was elected independent chairman of the board. Anderson thanked Biesterfeld for his “significant contributions” during his three years as CEO.

As the pandemic’s supply chain disruptions became the new normal, the company’s fall was hard to come by. CH Robinson announced in November that it would cut 650 jobs, or 3.6% of its workforce, after downgrading its third-quarter results.

Biesterfeld said in July that the company will see demand decline as rising inflation rates change consumer habits. A slowdown in the retail and housing markets will slow demand in the second half of the year, he said.

“It has been a privilege to lead CH Robinson and this exceptional team,” Biesterfeld said in a press release. “I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished together, and it’s been a pleasure working with so many talented team members across the organization during my tenure as CEO. I’m confident CH Robinson’s industry-leading people and culture will continue to ensure the company is well-positioned for the future.”

One of Biesterfeld’s big initiatives as CEO was to double the pace of technology investments to increase his advantage over other third-party logistics firms. In 2019, he announced that CH Robinson would invest $1 billion in the technology over the next five years.

But the company has recently faced pressure from an activist investor. Ancora Group won two seats on CH Robinson’s board in February and subsequently signed a standstill agreement.

Atkins said third-quarter results released in November were disappointing and “what appears to be a very difficult earnings backdrop for the company” prompted the CEO’s decision.

Anderson was appointed to the CH Robinson board in January 2012 and has been chairman since 2020. He was the CEO of Patterson Cos. from 2010 to 2017.

“I am honored to take on the role of Interim CEO and am committed to ensuring this is a seamless transition for all CH Robinson stakeholders,” Anderson said in the release. “Now is the right time for CH Robinson to accelerate our strategic initiatives, and the Board is focused on identifying a CEO successor who can capitalize on the opportunities ahead for Robinson. I look forward to working closely with our talented employees to continue to improve our customer and carrier experience and drive continued growth.” expand our digital processes.”

Interim CEO Anderson will not be nominated for the permanent role, the SEC said Tuesday.

CH Robinson’s new CEO faces growing competition in logistics. While Robinson is the largest third-party logistics firm, the industry is fragmented with many smaller competitors and a growing number of technology-enabled startups.

Morningstar analyst Matthew Young estimates that CH Robinson owns 17% of the trucking brokerage industry thanks to the large network of shippers and carriers it works with in the U.S., but notes that competition is increasing. “We expect competition to gradually become more organized as the industry consolidates,” Young wrote in a research note.

Given the near-term and long-term challenges facing CH Robinson, Atkins is hesitant about CH Robinson’s near-term prospects. “We think the problems here are bigger than one person and they’re going to take some time to solve,” Atkins said.

“Additionally, a CEO transition may raise cultural issues, as we believe Mr. Biesterfeld is highly respected internally.”

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