Forward Air Appoints Former Ceva Unit Leader as New CEO

Forward Air Appoints Former Ceva Unit Leader as New CEO

Forward Air has named former Ceva Logistics unit head Shawn Stewart as its new CEO effective this coming Sunday. The announcement follows the ouster of former leader Tom Schmitt, which orchestrated a controversial merger with Omni Logistics that finally closed in January after months of litigation.

Stewart brings nearly 30 years of leadership experience in transportation and logistics to Forward (NASDAQ: FWRD). He held various leadership roles at global logistics provider Ceva, mostly recently serving as the president and managing director of the company’s North American operations, where he oversaw 15,000 employees.

Stewart will also serve as a director on Forward’s board.

The Board and our advisors conducted a thorough search and are confident Shawn is the right leader to drive Forward’s future success,” said George Mayes, Forward’s independent chairman, in a Tuesday news release. “He knows this industry inside and out and has demonstrated a track record of successfully delivering growth and operational excellence.”

The beleaguered company has seen its share price plummet nearly 80% since the merger was announced on Aug. 10. The deal structure circumvented a vote by shareholders, prompting a lawsuit. Other Forward investors took issue with the high debt burden and shift in voting power the transaction would allow.

A final closing price of $2.1 billion required Forward to issue $1.8 billion in debt to assume Omni’s obligations and restructure its existing debt. Forward’s net debt to adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was estimated to be 5.2 times at closing, which the company expects to reduce to a still-lofty ratio of 4.5 times by the end of 2025.

Forward did say on its fourth-quarter call that it was cash-flow positive in February, which is typically a weak month for freight transportation providers.

The news release said the company plans to issue first-quarter results after the market closes on May 8 with a call the following day.

Michael Hance, who served as Forward’s interim CEO during the search, will remain in his current roles as chief legal officer and secretary.

“Together, Forward and Omni have created an industry leader with a clear dedication to delivering world-class service to customers — a quality I share,” said Stewart. “I have been impressed by the resilience both teams have demonstrated in a challenging market and during a protracted transition period.”

Shortly following the deal’s closing, most of Omni’s senior leadership team, including CEO JJ Schickel, separated from Forward.


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