Forward Air shakes up leadership team after bungled Omni Logistics acquisition

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Forward Air (CCJ Top 250, No. 34) Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Tom Schmitt has left the company less than a month after completing the acquisition of Omni Logistics that at first was met with internal controversy and later nearly spiked entirely. 

Forward and Omni will create a category leader in the expedited LTL market, but leading that business effective immediately will be Michael Hance, who has been appointed Interim chief executive officer in addition to his current position as chief legal officer and secretary. Since joining Forward in 2006, Hance has served in a variety of legal and governance leadership roles, including general counsel since 2008 and chief legal officer since 2014, as well as leading the company’s human resources department from 2010 to 2014.

“After careful consideration, the board determined that now is the right time to initiate a search for our next CEO to lead Forward during the next phase of our growth and evolution,” said George Mayes, who has served on the board since 2021 and has been appointed independent chairman. “With Michael serving as interim CEO and Chris (Ruble) as president and COO, we are confident we have trusted leaders to guide us through this next period of transition and position Forward for future success. On behalf of the board, I want to thank Tom for his years of dedication and leadership.”

The company's board of directors has formed a search committee to identify a permanent CEO replacement.

Forward announced in August its plans to acquire Omni, but there was a tussle among stakeholders who claimed the move, originally billed as an acquisition, was a merger that required shareholder approval. The deal soon after nearly fell apart with Forward claiming Omni had not complied with certain obligations of the merger agreement, almost killing the deal. 

Forward announced the closing of the Omni Logistics transaction Jan. 25. The board has formed an integration committee to oversee the integration of Omni and capitalize on the attractive growth opportunities and synergy potential the acquisition presents.

Hub Group Inc. (CCJ Top 250, No. 30) in December acquired Forward Air Final Mile (FAFM), a subsidiary of Forward Air Corp. (No. 34). Cash consideration for the transaction of $262 million was funded with cash on hand. 

Other changes 

• Chris Ruble, chief operating officer since 2018 and an employee at Forward since 1996, has been appointed president and chief operating officer. While serving in a variety of operational leadership roles during his 28 years with Forward, he has served as the architect of the company’s precision execution network and played a critical role in the successful integration of all of Forward’s acquisitions.

• The board has added Gil West, former senior executive vice president and chief operating officer at Delta Air Lines, as an independent director. 

• Christopher Schmachtenberger, president and chief investment officer of Timucuan, has joined the board pursuant to the previously disclosed shareholder agreement with EVE Partners LLC.

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected]