The Amtrak board is to announce this week that CEO Richard Anderson is being replaced by William Flynn, who has a background in both air and sea logistics and railroading. Anderson had apparently fallen out of favor with the Amtrak board, according to sources, and had a sour relationship with some members of Congress.
On Anderson's watch plans were being readied to tear apart the Southwest Chief Chicago-Los Angeles route and replace part of the train mileage with a bus bridge through Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. This brought out the ire of six U.S. Senators and national rail advocates that succeeded in stopping the CEO's plan. Food service on national network trains was downgraded under Anderson, creating a furor among many passengers. While concentrating his efforts on the Northeast Corridor, Anderson paid scant attention to the needs of the Western network trains, with no aggressive plans to replace aging equipment.
Flynn is the chairman and former chief executive of Atlas Air Worldwide. He held previous senior management positions at Sea-Land Services and CSX Transportation. At CSX Transportation, Flynn was Senior Vice President -Strategic Planning and also had held the position of Senior Vice President responsible for the industrial unit of the railroad. Mr. Flynn would be the third CEO with a transportation background to steer the helm at Amtrak in the past three years. Amtrak’s finances have been improving in recent years but Anderson did not do well working with Congress, rail unions and according to sources, employee morale was extremely low. From an Amtrak Employee Bulletin:
To All Amtrak Employees,
Following a planned executive succession process undertaken by the Board of Directors, I am pleased to announce that William J. Flynn will become Amtrak’s next Chief Executive Officer and President on April 15, 2020.
Our goal with this leadership transition is simple. We want to continue the modernization of Amtrak that started four years ago with Wick Moorman, and then accelerated under Richard Anderson. Our company has never been stronger than it is today. We have record ridership, record revenue – and in 2020, we are on track to achieve operational breakeven for the first time in our 49-year history. We need to maintain our current high level of operational performance while continuing to innovate for our customers, so that we can be the mode and partner of choice for our customers for the next 50 years.
We have the right plans in place to make this happen and Bill Flynn is the right executive to lead us on the next steps in our transformation journey. Here’s why:
Bill has more than four decades of transportation and logistics experience. He has worked in multiple modes of transportation, including rail, maritime and aviation. Most recently, Bill served 13 years as Chairman, President and CEO of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, Inc., which serves the global air freight, military charter and passenger charter markets. He also held senior leadership roles with CSX Transportation, Sea-Land Services, Inc., and GeoLogistics Corp.
Bill is a seasoned executive leader with a broad range of expertise. His expertise includes safety, strategic planning, operational execution, market expansion, capital deployment, labor relations, and government and regulatory engagement, among others. These skills are critical to us as we continue to develop and execute our long-term and Annual Operating Plans.
Bill is a leader in Safety Management Systems and building a safety culture. The Board affirms that safety is our No. 1 priority. In selecting our next CEO, the Board felt strongly that our next executive leader needed to have experience in leading a culture change to support Safety Management Systems (SMS). Under Bill’s leadership, Atlas fully implemented the FAA Safety Management System well ahead of schedule, and consistently rated well in operational and safety audits.
Bill’s teams have grown businesses in challenging environments. Throughout his career, Bill has built and led teams that have been successful in many business environments. If a business is down or if the economy is in recession, Bill can inspire employees to help turn it around. If a company is doing well, Bill can take it to the next level and grow it further. We are confident he and our dedicated workforce will do the same at Amtrak.
On behalf of our Board, I want to personally extend our gratitude to Richard Anderson for his service to Amtrak. Richard has served as CEO since July 2017. During that time, Richard gave us a much sharper focus on safety, customer satisfaction and financial performance. We are a stronger company today thanks to his leadership. Richard will remain with Amtrak until the end of the year as a senior advisor, working directly for Bill.
In the end, a company is only as good as its people. We have a strong foundation to build upon because you built it. On behalf of the entire Board, we thank you for everything you do for the company. We have a great team. We have a clear plan. Bill is a dynamic and proven leader. And, the Board fully supports you. I am excited to see what we can all do together in 2020 and beyond.