Forward Air Hires Ex-Ceva Logistics Executive Stewart as CEO

Former CEO Schmitt Exited Abruptly in Aftermath of Omni Deal Closing
Forward Air truck and image of new CEO Shawn Stewart
Most recently, Shawn Stewart served as president and managing director of Ceva’s North America division. More than 15,000 employees reported up to him. (Forward Air via Facebook)

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Shawn Stewart is set to join Forward Air as CEO, effective April 28, the carrier said April 23. He also will join the asset-light transportation services group’s board of directors.

Michael Hance, who served as interim CEO, will continue as chief legal officer and secretary.

Former chairman, president and CEO Tom Schmitt departed from the company Feb. 7.

Schmitt exited days after finally completing the carrier’s at times contentious merger with Omni Logistics.

Greeneville, Tenn.-based Forward Air ranks No. 27 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America and No. 1 on the air/expedited carriers sector list. The combined entity of Forward Air/Omni Logistics ranks No. 31 on the TT Top 100 logistics companies list.

Stewart was previously an executive with Ceva Logistics, a unit of French shipping giant CMA CGM, which ranks No. 7 on the TT Top 50 Global Freight list. Ceva Logistics ranks No. 24 on the logistics TT 100.


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Most recently, Stewart served as president and managing director of Ceva’s North America division. More than 15,000 employees reported to him.

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

At the same time Schmitt departed, Chief Operating Officer Chris Ruble was given the title of president. It was a role originally earmarked for former Omni CEO J.J. Schickel.

Schmitt’s exit was the latest twist in a deal that was being bashed almost immediately after being unveiled in August 2023.


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Analysts were concerned about the two firms’ footprints, and shareholders were upset too, arguing that the terms of the deal bypassed their approval.

Forward Air plans to release its first-quarter 2024 earnings after the markets close May 8.

Forward Air saw a 138% year-over-year earnings drop in the fourth quarter of 2023. It posted a net loss of $14.7 million or 58 cents a diluted share for the three months ending Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $39 million or $1.45 during the year-ago period. The company’s total operating revenue fell 16% to $338.4 million from $403 million.

Before the Omni deal was announced, Forward was already refashioning itself in the less-than-truckload space as a scaled LTL enterprise focused on “multimodal service for complex, high-service and high-value freight needs.”

As a result, asset sales took place and more are expected by analysts.

Hub Group, ranked No. 11 on the for-hire TT 100 and No. 18 on the logistics TT 100, said in December it was buying Forward’s final-mile unit for about $262 million in cash. The unit provides residential final-mile delivery and installation of big and bulky goods, particularly appliances, its new owner said.

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