February 29, 2024

Shelley Simpson named CEO at J.B. Hunt in long-expected move


Simpson is currently the president of the trucking and intermodal provider. She has been with the company for almost 30 years and has been president since 2022.

Simpson will assume her new role July 1. She will remain president as well.

A recap of Simpson’s career provided by J.B. Hunt (NASDAQ: JBHT) in the announcement of her new job noted several highlights. In 2007, she was a founder of in-house brokerage Integrated Capacity Solutions and became its president. Simpson was named chief marketing officer in 2011 and head of the truckload segment in 2017. In that role, she led the launch of J.B. Hunt 360, the company’s digital platform. Human resources came under Simpson’s direction in 2020, and she became president in 2022.

As part of her new role, Simpson will also become a member of the company’s board of directors. 

Current CEO John H. Roberts III will become executive chairman. Kirk Thompson, current executive chairman and a former CEO, will retire from the board as will Wayne Garrison. Garrison is a former chairman and CEO of J.B. Hunt.

Thompson and Garrison are also being bestowed with the position of nonvoting honorary founding directors. Thompson joined the company in 1973 and Garrison joined in 1976. 

“Shelley challenges us to be excellent and innovative and always in pursuit of customer value,” Roberts said in the prepared statement announcing Simpson’s appointment. “She will continue to remain focused on disciplined investments to drive appropriate returns and long-term growth for the benefit of our people, customers and shareholders. These steps help to ensure the culture and innovative growth mindset that has been so vital to the success of our company remains strong and intact to support the vision and the values of the Company for the foreseeable future.”

The press release devoted more space to the executives who are departing than to Simpson. It noted that Thompson and Garrison are both retiring from the board before being required to take that step because of age.

Part of the focus on those moves appears to be that the board will be shifting toward a greater percentage of members who do not have a J.B. Hunt background. The company statement said with Thompson and Garrison not running for reelection at this year’s annual shareholders meeting, that will “allow for additional independent directors to join the Board in the future.” It added that Pat Ottensmeyer, the former CEO of Kansas City Southern, who as CEO led the sale of the company to Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) last year, joined the J.B. Hunt board as an independent director in January and two other independent directors, Thad Hill and Persio Lisboa, joined last year.

With Thompson and Garrison not seeking reelection but Simpson joining, that is a net reduction of one member with a J.B. Hunt background on the board, as current CEO Roberts will be executive chairman. He already is on the board.

In J.B. Hunt’s most recent earnings call, Simpson said little except to wrap up the conversation about the outlook for 2024. 

Focusing on “operational excellence to further separate ourselves as the best-in-class” would create more value for J.B. Hunt customers, Simpson said.

Foreshadowing a possible strengthening of prices for those services, Simpson added that customers would “recognize that value.”

“And then, we believe we can earn the right to have a conversation with our customers around cost,” she said. “That is a key focus for us and that started on January 1.”

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