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J.B. Hunt Celebrates Kirk Thompson’s 50 Years

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J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell honored former CEO and current Chairman of the Board Kirk Thompson’s longevity at its annual shareholders meeting Thursday.

Thompson is in his 50th year with the company, the first employee to reach that mark, said President Shelley Simpson. Thompson, a member of the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame, served as the company’s CEO from 1987 to 2011 when he became the chairman.

“I’ve seen a lot of things,” Thompson said. “It has been a great ride. I have had a great time. It has not always been easy, but it has always been rewarding.”

John Roberts, who replaced Thompson as CEO in 2011, said Thompson was a “contrarian” who pushed the company to expand, try new things and learn from failures. J.B. Hunt earned more than $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 1993; in 2022 it generated revenues of $14.8 billion.

“We are all the beneficiaries of that leadership,” Roberts said. “He did not settle for who we were. It was always who we could be. Kirk is responsible for setting us up.”

Roberts and Simpson each have more than 25 years of tenure with J.B. Hunt. The company struggled a bit during the first quarter, reporting a drop in 7% revenue from the same quarter of fiscal 2022.

The transportation industry is facing a freight recession, which is why Roberts praised the J.B. Hunt’s management team and its combined 300-plus years of experience with J.B. Hunt.

“The value of that when we are facing some of the headwinds we are facing now reveals itself again,” Roberts said. “There is a good bit of headwind and challenge for us right now, and there is not a member on this leadership team that is worried about getting through this. We will do what we need to to get through this in a healthy way.”

In the business portion of the meeting, shareholders approved the company’s nine-person board of directors, which included new member Persio Lisboa, the former CEO of Navistar. In February, the board voted to reduce the number of directors from 11 to nine after the retirements of three directors: Douglas Duncan, Gary George and Gale King.

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