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Update: Cliff Beckham to Resign From USA Truck

3 min read

USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren said Thursday that Cliff Beckham, the company’s former CEO and now its executive vice president and CFO, will resign effective Sept. 30 “to pursue new career opportunities.”

CEO John Simone, who replaced Beckham in February 2013, said he and Beckham understood from the start that Beckham would eventually leave the company. Simone said he and Beckham had a great working relationship and he wasn’t forcing Beckham out.

“I knew I wouldn’t have him indefinitely,” Simone told Arkansas Business during a conference call with Beckham. “We have been talking about how we transition and when we transition since day one. Obviously, that’s not something we could have disclosed. We feel the timing is right.”

Beckham said it was “implied” that he would leave at some point after Simone’s appointment but there was no set time when it would happen.

“I can’t stress in stronger terms that the story in our press release is actually exactly what is happening,” Beckham said. “It is very much my decision to leave, and John and I work extremely well together.”

Beckham, 42, served as CEO from August 2007 to February 2013 and helped in the search process that selected Simone as his replacement. Simone said he has been interviewing prospective CFO replacements since he came aboard and expects to have a candidate by the time Beckham is scheduled to leave at the end of September.

“We do have some candidates that I’ve talked with,” Simone said. “Now that we can go public I expect that more candidates will surface.”

Beckham has been with USA Truck for 20 years and was promoted from CFO to CEO in August 2007. He told the company of his plans to step down on Aug. 1, a day after USA Truck released its second-quarter earnings report for 2014.

“Our understanding back then was I was fully vested in helping with the turnaround and helping John transition, but there would come a day when the time would be right for me to move on,” Beckham said. “Over the last five [years], I’ve been through a lot and I need some rest. We never had any arrangement or firm understanding when the timing might be.”

Beckham, a 2007 Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 honoree, earned $383,201 in salary in his last full year as CEO in 2012, when USA Truck posted an annual loss of $17.6 million. Beckham earned $312,500 in salary and $349,999 total in 2013 and received a $75,000 bonus in April 2014 as part of the company’s management retention bonus plan, something that was put into effect to help ward off a takeover attempt by Knight Transportation of Phoenix.

The plan stipulated that executives who resigned before Oct. 30, 2014, would have to return the bonus, but USA Truck announced in its SEC filing Thursday that Beckham would keep the bonus. The company said Beckham would receive his regular salary through August, his regular salary plus $25,000 in September and, if he remains for any period of time in October, his regular salary plus $1,136.36 per day.

“I think it was very much a gesture on the part of the board,” Beckham said, referring to the bonus. “I’ve been here 20 years. I’ve worked extremely hard I’ve done everything I could to support the turnaround.”

Backham owned 73,587 shares of USA Truck as of the company’s most recent proxy.

USA Truck has posted five consecutive years of annual losses but had promising news in its earnings second-quarter earnings report last week. USA Truck reported net income of $700,000, its first positive quarter since 2011.

Beckham joked that he would head “straight to the bar” after stepping down. He said he would take a couple of months off to be a full-time dad and recuperate before deciding what to do next.

While Beckham said several times during the interview he was tired from the long days and hard stress of the last few years, he said his health was fine. He said Thursday morning was tough as he met with people he had worked with for the past 20 years.

“I’ve had a pretty emotional morning,” Beckham said. “We’ve had a lot of discussions and hugs this morning. I don’t think it has fully sunk in for me.”

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