Third-party logistics provider and freight brokerage giant C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. said Tuesday morning that President and CEO Bob Biesterfeld has stepped down. The abrupt resignation was effective as of Saturday.
Biesterfeld also resigned from C.H. Robinson’s board, the Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based company said.
Scott Anderson, Robinson’s board chairman since 2020, has been named interim CEO, the company said. Jodie Kozlak, who runs her own consulting firm, was named independent board chair. The company has begun a search for a permanent CEO.
Biesterfeld’s departure had been in the works for months, said a person familiar with the matter. The announcement was “all a matter of timing,” the person said.
Biesterfeld joined Robinson in 1999 and had served as CEO since May 2019. Prior to that, he was the company’s chief operating officer for 14 months. Biesterfeld held multiple roles at Robinson, including president of the company’s key North American Surface Transportation (NAST) unit.
The high-level change came less than two months after Robinson (NASDAQ: CHRW) reported weaker-than-expected third-quarter results. Several days after the announcement, the company said it would lay off 650 employees. The company employed nearly 17,000 people at the time.
At the time it disclosed its third-quarter results, Biesterfeld said the company had “got ahead of ourselves in terms of head count” and that he did not forecast that truckload demand, spot and contract rates would decline as rapidly as they have.
Ravi Shanker, transport analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co. (NYSE: MS) said in a Tuesday note that the move was “not unexpected but still likely a surprise” since it occurred on the first business day of 2023 and did not involve a transition period.
Shanker said the change was driven by the board’s belief that it was time to accelerate its digital transformation strategy.” He also said that some investors may have considered the possibility that a high-level change was needed given NAST’s underperformance during very strong cycles for the brokerage industry.
“Even with two of the biggest upcycles in history and two deep downcycles in the past five years, (Robinson) has been unable to capitalize, despite the brokerage model being tailor-made to succeed in boom-bust cycles” and the company’s dominant market position, Shanker said.