The search for a new CEO for Minneapolis, Minn.-based global logistics services provider and freight forwarder C.H. Robinson has come to an end, with the company announcing today it tabbed David Bozeman to take the position, effective June 26. Bozeman will also serve as a member of the company’s Board of Directors.
Bozeman joins C.H. Robinson with more than 30 years of experience, coming from his most recent position as Vice President, Ford Customer Service Division, and Vice President, Enthusiast Vehicles, for Ford Blue of Ford Motor Company, where he oversaw the overall business performance for some of Ford’s most notable vehicle brands, according to C.H. Robinson officials.
And before he was with Ford, Bozeman served as Vice President, Amazon Transportation Services of Amazon.com, Inc., where he oversaw supply chain optimization for customer delivery across Amazon’s global operations and played a key role rolling out the middle mile global transportation business, which included both ground and air and road and under the roof business operations. He also built and launched global transportation businesses covering digital freight shipping, air transport, and small parcel pickup and delivery businesses, for Amazon.
Bozeman also served as Senior Vice President, Enterprise Systems of Caterpillar, Inc. where he led the global manufacturing for all of the company’s mining products.
“Following a comprehensive and thoughtful search process, we are thrilled to name Dave as CEO of C.H. Robinson,” said Jodee Kozlak, Chair of the Board of Directors of C.H. Robinson, in a statement. “Dave is a seasoned executive who has a strong track record of reinventing complex operating models with industry-wide impact, proven expertise in global supply chain and logistics management through various economic cycles and extensive experience leading high performing teams and cultures to drive results. Dave is the right leader to take C.H. Robinson’s vision forward with his focus on organizational opportunity and enhancing value for our customers and our shareholders by capitalizing on C.H. Robinson’s opportunities as a leading asset-light logistics provider in a rapidly-evolving and increasingly complex supply chain environment.”
In a LinkedIn post, Bozeman wrote that he has long admired C.H. Robinson as an industry-leading asset-light logistics provider and for its customer focus.
“C.H. Robinson has superior global services and capabilities, and I couldn’t be more excited about working with the incredible Robinson team as we embark on this next chapter of growth and success together,” he wrote. “We will be building on a strong existing foundation and the sky is the limit.”
Bozeman will be replacing Bob Biesterfeld, whom was released from his duties as President and CEO, as well as his role as a member of the Board of Directors, on December 31, 2022. While CHR said at the time that Biesterfeld stepped down, a Reuters report said that a regulatory filing issued by the company described his exit as “an involuntary termination by the company.”
Following Biesterfeld’s departure, CHR Chair of the Board of Directors Scott Anderson was tabbed as Interim Chief Executive Officer, effective January 1, 2023.
In February 2019, then CHR Chief Operating Officer Biesterfeld was named CHR CEO, which took effect in May 2019. He replaced C.H. Robinson Chairman and CEO John Wiehoff. Before being named COO in March 2018, Biesterfeld served as President, North America Surface Transportation and prior to that he served as Vice President, Truckload and Vice President, Robinson Fresh, where he started his logistics career path in 1999.
At the time of his hiring as CEO, Biesterfeld told LM in an interview that one of the company’s key objectives was turning the page to a more digital future, where CHR is very focused on the three core components of people, process, and technology, with technology continuing to be a more important piece of that overall puzzle.
“That is how I am thinking about it directionally, and our senior leadership team is focused on that strategy,” he said at the time.
In September 2019, CHR said it planned to make a $1 billion investment to be allocated in technology over the next five years, which the company said is twice as much as it previous $1 billion in investment into technology over the last ten years. In terms of personnel, C.H. Robinson has more than 1,000 data scientist, engineers, and developers.
The aforementioned March Reuters report indicated that that Jim Barber, former chief operating officer for Atlanta-based global freight transportation and logistics services provider UPS, was next in line to become CEO. The Reuters report said that Barber was in “advanced talks” with CHR, citing two sources familiar with the matter. Barber currently is on CHR’s board of directors, a role he assumed in 2022 and was at UPS for almost 35 years, retiring from the company in 2020.
Satish Jindel, president of Wexford, Pa.-based SJ Consulting Group, told LM it was surprising C.H. Robinson passed over Barber and went with an outside hire.
“C.H. Robinson had a very smart guy on its own board with Barber,” he said. “It chose to ignore him, and I know he had interest in the position. Why didn’t that happen? As a publicly-traded company, it should explain what went into the selection. “Bozeman’s Ford background is not going to help him with what he does at C.H. Robinson, and he has not operated a public company before [as a CEO]. His Amazon background has some relevance, but if it wanted an Amazon guy, then why didn’t it interview Dave Clark, who did more at Amazon. Bozeman will have his challenges, and I am sure he has all the skills to meet them, because it will be watched.”
Jindel added that he felt C.H. Robinson was “too slow” in announcing a new CEO hire, noting the process could have been done in two-to-three months.”
Evan Armstrong, president of supply chain consultancy Armstrong & Associates, said that Bozeman is an interesting choice since he doesn’t have direct experience in third-party logistics and industry outsiders don’t tend to fare well in growing 3PLs.
"A lot of solid long-term CHR insiders were also passed over, which may hurt morale," he said. "On the other hand, Dave’s experience at Ford, Amazon, and Caterpillar may lead to further expansion into integrated 3PL solutions and direct-to-consumer last-mile capabilities. However, from a profitability standpoint, historically those service areas tend to take more capital and have lower returns than CHR’s core non-asset-based transportation management business."
Cathy Morrow Roberson, founder and president of Atlanta-based Logistics Trends & Insights LLC, observed that it was smart of C.H. Robinson to go with someone with customer experience.
“Combined with the Amazon experience, Bozeman should be able to bring innovative ideas to jumpstart CHR's growth and to help differentiate it from the rest of the logistics providers,” she said.
And Ben Gordon, founder and managing partner of Palm Beach, Florida-based Cambridge Capital, and managing partner of Ben Gordon Strategic Advisors, explained it is a bold move to go for a candidate who is mostly out of the logistics industry.
“This is a CEO with industrial experience at Ford and Harley-Davidson, plus a stint at Amazon,” he said. “The markets did not agree with the decision, and C.H. Robinson stock dropped precipitously yesterday, and was the second-worst performer in the S&P 500. That said, if he can be a catalyst for change, and shake up a company that was once the clear market leader, then it will be a success. So, I think we need to hear from him as to his plans.”
Robert W. Baird & Co. analyst Garrett Holland wrote in a research note that Bozeman brings more perspective as a transportation industry outsider, which is not inherently a bad thing).
“Investors are anxious to see better volume growth and a scalable tech platform amidst disruption in the brokerage industry,” he added. “We look forward to hearing Bozeman’s strategy for the company, but investors likely need more patience to endure ongoing normalization in results and to await a timeline for bolder change.
C.H. Robinson’s first quarter gross profits were down 24.7% annually to $678.3 million, and income from operations fell 53.4% to $161.0 million.
Interim CEO Anderson noted in the company’s earnings release that these results reflected the softening market conditions that have transpired in the freight transportation market over the past twelve months (through March.
"With shippers continuing to manage through elevated inventories amidst slowing economic growth, the balance of supply and demand has shifted from a tight market a year ago to one that is now oversupplied,” he said. “As spot rates approach the breakeven cost per mile to operate a truck, the market is likely at or near the bottom of the industry cycle, which typically results in capacity exiting the market. Contract rates are also declining as transportation providers adjust to the changing market. During this transition, we’ve continued to increase our focus on delivering an improved customer and carrier experience and a more efficient business model, and we're taking steps to foster profitable growth through cycles. We are executing on the restructuring plan that was initiated in November, and we're lowering our 2023 personnel expense by $100 million at the mid-point of our guidance, reflecting actions that have already been taken and additional opportunities to further reduce our costs."