Forward Air CEO Tom Schmitt Exits After Omni Deal Completion

Further Divestments Expected Beyond Final-Mile Unit Deal With Hub Group
Forward Air and Tom Schmitt
Schmitt's departure is not a surprise, though its timing is. (Forward Air via Facebook)

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Forward Air CEO Tom Schmitt exited the company days after finally completing the carrier’s at-times contentious merger with Omni Logistics.

Greenville, Tenn.-based Forward named Chief Legal Officer and Secretary Michael Hance as interim CEO and said the search for a permanent CEO was already underway. In addition, Chief Operating Officer Chris Ruble was given the title of president.

Ruble assumes a role originally earmarked for former Omni CEO J.J. Schickel.

Schickel was initially set to assume the post when the merger was announced, but Forward said in a Jan. 25 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that his employment agreement was terminated.

Hance and Ruble

Michael Hance (left) is interim CEO, and Chris Ruble is president. (LinkedIn)

The filing was made after the merger was sealed and litigation settled after a drawn-out legal standoff during which each company blamed the other for the deal near-collapse.

Forward said Jan. 25 it would provide more information on the future management team and a restructured board, as well as financial targets, when it reports its fourth-quarter 2023 earnings.

“Tom’s departure is not a surprise, but what is a surprise is how quickly” he departed, Stifel equity analyst Bruce Chan told Transport Topics on Feb. 8.

Schmitt’s exit is the latest in the fallout of a deal that almost immediately after being unveiled in August 2023 was seen as a bad one, said Chan.

J.J. Schickel


The merger raised eyebrows with analysts concerned about the two firms’ footprints, and shareholders were upset too, arguing that the terms of the deal bypassed their approval. The merger closed at an estimated price tag of $2.1 billion, down from the initial price tag of $3.2 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“The board realized how much the deal was hated,” said Chan. He said the board will likely seek to appoint a new top executive with a clean slate.

Among the other expected repercussions of the deal are further asset sales, said Chan, with Forward’s intermodal unit likely top of the list.


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Hub Group Inc. 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.

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.”

Schmitt previously served as chief commercial officer at German logistics giant DB Schenker, CEO at Canadian beverage group Aquaterra Corp. and CEO at Canadian freight, parcel and logistics group Purolator. Earlier in his career, Schmitt spent more than 10 years with FedEx Corp.

Hance joined Forward in 2006 and has held the posts of general counsel since 2008 and chief legal officer since 2014.

Forward 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. Omni ranks No. 38 on the TT Top 100 logistics companies list.

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