CSX CEO Hunter Harrison Dead, Days After Medical Leave

Just two days after taking medical leave from his role as CEO of CSX, the company has confirmed 73-year-old Hunter Harrison has passed away.

Hunter Harrison, CEO of rail company CSX, has passed away, the company confirmed in a statement Saturday.

"It is with great sadness that we announce that E. Hunter Harrison, President and Chief Executive Officer of CSX, died today in Wellington, Fla., due to unexpectedly severe complications from a recent illness," the company said.

Harrison had taken medical leave on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Jim Foote has been named acting CEO in the wake of Hunter's passing, according to CSX board chairman Edward Kelly.

"With the passing of Hunter Harrison, CSX has suffered a major loss," Kelly said. "Notwithstanding that loss, the board is confident that Jim Foote, as acting Chief Executive Officer, and the rest of the CSX team will capitalize on the changes that Hunter has made.

 

"The Board will continue to consider in a deliberative way how best to maximize CSX's performance over the long term," Kelly said.

Harrison, who turned around three railroad carriers during a five-decade career before being tapped by CSX Corp. to improve the company’s lackluster performance, had heart bypass surgery in 1998, occasionally used a portable oxygen tank to treat shortness of breath.

His reputation among analysts and investors was so strong that CSX shares jumped 23 percent on a single day in January 2017 when reports emerged that Harrison was in talks to take the helm. Shares fell almost 8 percent when the company announced his medical leave.

His health emerged as a concern for investors after he joined Canadian Pacific. In 2015, Harrison contracted pneumonia and missed several weeks of work after undergoing surgery to have stents implanted in his legs. In 2017, before being appointed by CSX, he turned down the company’s request that an independent physician designated by the board review his medical records.

Harrison and his wife, Jeannie, had two children.