CEO Profile: John N. Roberts III of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Mar. 26, 2012 12:00 am  

When J.B. Hunt Transport Services began seeing softness in its revenue and income, in 2008 and 2009, the Lowell trucking company refocused its services and sought to reduce its exposure in a sector of its asset-based business, the truck part of the concern.

The strategy has worked well for the company.

For 2010, revenue was $3.79 billion, an 18 percent increase compared with full-year 2009. Operating income was up 40 percent over 2009, and profit was $199.6 million.
For 2011, revenue was $4.5 billion, a 19 percent increase. Operating income jumped 28 percent in 2011 and profit reached $257 million.

This solid improvement in J.B. Hunt's financials in 2010 occurred with Kirk Thompson in charge as president and CEO. The company, however, continued its upward trajectory under John N. Roberts III, 47, who assumed those roles on Jan. 1, 2011, while Thompson stayed aboard as chairman.

As Roberts and Thompson noted in their joint letter to stockholders in J.B. Hunt's recently released annual report, "2011 proved to be a record year for our company in many ways. We reached new highs in load volumes for Intermodal (JBI), Dedicated Contract Services (DCS) and Integrated Capacity Solutions (ICS). Our Truck segment (JBT) activated more independent contractors than ever before, and our company-wide third-party carrier base count eclipsed previous levels."

J.B. Hunt announced in October 2010 that Roberts had been elected president and CEO, replacing Thompson, and that Thompson had been elected chairman of the board, replacing Wayne Garrison, who remained as a company director. Roberts' and Thompson's transitions took place at the beginning of 2011.

"With the company's strategic positioning well established and operational execution at such a high level, this is the right time for me to step back from the day-to-day operations," Thompson said in the October announcement. "We have an outstanding team of leaders that is both wide and deep. They are more than capable of taking the company to even greater heights in the future. I couldn't be more confident in both the direction of the company and the leadership in place."

"John and I have worked together closely for the last 13 years after he was drafted to lead DCS in a ‘battlefield promotion.' His response to that challenge and the challenges of growing a start-up business to almost $1.0 billion has been nothing short of outstanding. The Board and I are confident he will do a similarly outstanding job as the fourth CEO in J.B. Hunt Transport Services' history. I look forward to continuing to be a part of this highly respected team of transportation and logistics professionals," Thompson said.

Roberts, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, joined the company in 1989 as a management trainee. Before becoming CEO, Roberts served the company as executive vice president and president of Dedicated Contract Services from 1997 to Dec. 31, 2010.

J.B. Hunt has four primary segments.

  • Intermodal (JBI), the company's largest segment, operates the largest fleet of privately owned containers in North America, operating in a nationwide rail network.
  • The Dedicated Contract Services (DCS) segment designs, develops and executes customer-specific supply chain networks, operating as an extension of the customer's business.
  • Integrated Capacity Solutions (ICS), founded in 2007, seeks to connect shippers to carriers for efficient transportation of goods.
  • The Truck segment (JBT), is one of the nation's largest publicly traded truckload carriers.

 

The company, which was founded in 1961 and went public in 1983, had 15,225 employees and 9,900 trucks as of last year and was the third-largest trucking company in Arkansas.

J.B. Hunt has received a number of honors within the last 12 months.

  • Inbound Logistics named J.B. Hunt to its Top 75 Green Supply Chain Partners.
  • Inbound Logistics also named the company as a 2011 Top 100 Motor Carrier.
  • The company was recognized as a 2011 SmartWay Champion by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville chose J.B. Hunt as Wal-Mart's 2011 Intermodal Carrier of the Year. Wal-Mart has chosen J.B. Hunt as Intermodal Carrier of the Year for 10 of the past 11 years.

And in November, J.B. Hunt announced that it had awarded $1 million to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton and funded by the Wal-Mart Family Foundation. The gift was designated for the Next Generation Fund, an endowment that seeks to give members of the community increased access to the museum.

J.B. Hunt's strong showing - even during the Great Recession the company outperformed many other transportation concerns - helps explain Roberts' robust compensation package for 2011.

He received $5.35 million in total compensation during 2011, according to the company's proxy filed March 15. The proxy broke down the compensation like this: $549,019 in salary, J.B. Hunt shares valued at $4.37 million, non-equity incentive plan compensation of $412,500 and other compensation of $12,917. That other compensation consisted of $4,395 in legal and accounting fees and $8,522 in club dues.

Roberts was not a "named executive officer" during 2010, so his compensation for that year was not detailed.

The proxy reported Roberts owning 274,364 shares of J.B. Hunt stock. At J.B. Hunt's closing price of $54.64 as of March 16, that stock would be valued at a hair under $15 million.

 

 

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