Arkansas Best Corp.
Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith is the holding company for motor carrier and intermodal transportation subsidiaries, including ABF Freight System Inc. It sold its Clipper Exxpress Co. subsidiary in 2006.
Born in 1935 as Arkansas Motor Freight, the company has about 15,000 employees and annual revenue of about $1.8 billion. In 1988, Arkansas Best was the subject of a hostile takeover attempt. It survived by allowing Kelso & Co. to conduct a leveraged buyout, making Arkansas Best a private company.
In the years after the buyout, Arkansas Best repaid all its debt. Among its money-raising methods: selling subsidiary USA Truck of Van Buren, which spun off as its own company in 1989. Arkansas Best bought back shares owned by Kelso & Co. in 1992 and went public, trading on the Nasdaq.
In 2006, Robert A. Davidson took over as CEO after the retirement of Robert A. Young III. In early 2007 Davidson unrolled the Regional Performance Model, a new initiative that he said could lead to annual revenues of about $3 billion for the company. In spring 2008, Arkansas Best Corp. was ranked No. 934 in the Fortune 1000 by Fortune magazine.
The recession has challenged the firm, as it has other trucking companies. Since the end of 2008, it has reduced its workforce by more than 600 and it has cut the size of its tractor-trailer fleet.
In 2009, Arkansas Best announced that Judy McReynolds would succeed Robert A. Davidson as the company's CEO when Davidson retired at the end of the year. Since taking over, she's faced the company's -- and the trucking industry's -- challenges head-on, beginning a turnaround of the firm that continues.
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