This is part of a series of stories that comprise TheStreet's Blue Chip Studio, which will illuminate issues related to corporate board performance, activism, dealmakers and personalities revealed by analysis of data generated by BoardEx, a business unit of TheStreet.
CSX's newly installed chief executive, Hunter Harrison, hasn't disappointed shareholders in his initial moves, announcing a $1 billion share buyback program for the railroad company and a higher dividend on Thursday. As Harrison pushes his agenda going forward, he will likely have support from a couple of directors whom the new CEO has worked with in the past.
Harrison was named CEO after activist investor Paul Hilal and his fund Mantle Ridge took control of the company earlier this year. Hilal, a former partner at Pershing Square Capital Management, helped Bill Ackman engineer a successful insurgency in 2012 that led to Harrison's installation as CEO at Canadian Pacific Railway .
Hilal, aside from being instrumental in the installation of Harrison as CEO of CSX, also serves on the board of the Jacksonville, Fla.-based railroad company. He was appointed to the board in March 2017. The duo served similar roles at Canadian Pacific. Hilal, 50, was a director while Harrison was CEO at Canadian Pacific between 2012 and 2016, according to BoardEx. BoardEx is a business unit of TheStreet.
Harrison will find another familiar face on the board in director John McPherson. Between 1993 and 1998, McPherson, 71, was a senior vice president of operations at Illinois Central while Harrison was CEO. McPherson was appointed to CSX's board in 2008.
Furthermore, as part of the deal reached with Mantle Ridge to install Harrison, CSX agreed to appoint five new directors--including Harrison and Hilal--to the board. Directors Dennis Reilley, former CEO of Praxair , Morgan Stanley veteran Linda Riefler and John Zillmer, former CEO of Univar , joined the board along with Hilal and Harrison.
The size and composition of the board at CSX will not look the same for much longer, however. Three incumbent directors are expected to step down before the 2017 annual meeting. As a result, the size of CSX's board will be 13 members.
When looking at CSX's board, some overtenured directors could be good targets for replacement. Currently, six non-executive directors have served for terms greater than 10 years, according to BoardEx. CSX directors Donna Alvarado, John Breaux, Steve Halverson, Edward Kelly III, David Ratcliffe and Donald Shepard have each been board members for more than a decade.
Even as the board gets restructured, Harrison remains focused on creating value for shareholders, as shown by the increase in the dividend and share buyback program.
CSX shares gained more than 5% on Thursday to close at $49.56.
Though Harrison engineered a turnaround that helped Canadian Pacific's Toronto-listed shares soar nearly 190% during his tenure, in one respect he ever fully reached his objective of large-scale railroad consolidation.
In 2014, Canadian Pacific, under Harrison, failed to take over CSX, but made clear its plans to keep trying.
Although a deal between Canadian Pacific and CSX never worked out, Harrison turned his attention to the firm's primary eastern rival, Norfolk Southern .
The result: Another failed bid.
Following antitrust concerns by the Department of Justice, Canadian Pacific walked away from the deal. Harrison lamented that, "We have long recognized that consolidation is necessary for the North American rail industry to meet the demands of a growing economy, but with no clear path to a friendly merger at this time, we will turn all of our focus and energy to serving our customers and creating long-term value for CP shareholders."
While Harrison's track record suggests that while he may again attempt industry consolidation, it's no certainty that the third time will be a charm.
Editors' pick: Originally published April 21.