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August 22, 2017 10:30 AM, EDT
FedEx Founder’s Son Lands Promotion, Moves Up Corporate Ladder at Shipping Giant
Richard Smith Screenshot via Greater Memphis Chamber

FedEx founder Frederick Smith’s son Richard Smith is rising through the ranks at the Memphis-based company.

Richard Smith, 39, was promoted to president and CEO of FedEx Trade Networks, the international trade arm of FedEx Express, on July 1. It’s among the top 23 leadership positions at the $60 billion a year, 400,000-employee company.

FedEx ranks No. 2 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

He succeeded James “Jack” Muhs, who was appointed president of FedEx Express’ Middle East, Indian subcontinent and Africa division. Muhs had led FedEx Trade Networks since Feb. 10, 2014.

The second promotion in less than a year suggests Richard Smith is being groomed as a future leader, an industry insider said.

Calling it a “noteworthy event,” transportation consultant Satish Jindel said “he probably won’t take over for Fred. There may be a gap with Dave Bronczek in the middle, and I’m sure Dave Bronczek has had a role to play in advancing Richard Smith.”

The elder Smith earlier this year handed off the title of FedEx Corp. president to Bronczek, 63, who was formerly president and CEO of FedEx Express. FedEx Corp. is the parent of companies including FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and FedEx Office.

Frederick Smith remains corporate chairman and CEO, and at 73, he has two more years before reaching FedEx’s mandatory retirement age of 75 for chairman and other board members.

“Considering he has 10 children and only one of them is at FedEx, it shows he’s not just putting his children in the company, but promoting the ones who perform,” Jindel said. “Richard must be demonstrating his ability to manage.”

That Muhs was promoted to oversee a FedEx Express regional operation shows Richard Smith’s new job “is a stepping stone to moving into a more important international role,” Jindel said.

FedEx declined to comment for this story.

Richard Smith served as senior vice president of global trade and specialty services and vice president of global trade services during the fiscal year that ended May 31, according to a recently filed proxy statement.

He had been a vice president at Express since April 2014. He joined FedEx Services in 2005 as a senior solutions analyst, became a manager at FedEx Supply Chain Solutions in 2007 and served as managing director of life sciences and specialty services at FedEx Express starting in 2009.

FedEx Express runs FedEx’s cargo airline and provides time-definite shipping. Fiscal 2017 express revenues were $27.3 billion, about 45 percent of total corporate revenue.

Richard Smith’s total compensation for fiscal 2017, including all incentive compensation and value of stock option awards, was $757,000, the proxy said.

FedEx Trade Networks provides freight forwarding, customs clearance and other import-export services.

Richard Smith has taken an increasingly active role in civic affairs in Memphis in recent years.

He has served as co-chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, which taps business leadership to address community issues including job readiness, early childhood education and litter cleanup. He’s a Memphis Zoo board member who has worked to find middle ground in a controversy about parking on the Overton Park Greensward.

The younger Smith’s job status was one of three related person transactions for Frederick Smith disclosed in the proxy.

An unidentified son is a partial owner of LiveSafe Inc., a company with which FedEx did business during fiscal 2017, the proxy said.

FedEx entered into a two-year agreement paying LiveSafe $300,000 a year, plus an estimated initial setup fee of $20,000.

The elder Smith invested $5.25 million in financing for LiveSafe in 2016. It’s described as “a mobile safety communications platform delivering actionable crowd-sourced safety and security intelligence, preventing incidents, connecting people to the help they need.”

The other family tie, a repeat from the 2016 proxy, is employment of a daughter of Frederick Smith as a global public policy advisor in Washington. It says her total annual compensation didn’t exceed $165,000.

Samantha Smith’s LinkIn profile lists “government affairs at FedEx.” She previously served as communications director for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Republican presidential campaign. The campaign hired her from Google, where she was a senior manager for global communications and public affairs.

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