Saturday, October 31, 2015
XPO closes purchase of Con-way; layoffs begin within Con-way system
More than 10 percent of workforce is cut at HQ, IT center, source says; rebranding to XPO name takes effect.
By Mark B. Solomon
It wasn't long after XPO Logistics Inc. announced today that it had finalized its $3 billion acquisition of trucking and logistics provider Con-way Inc. that the bloodletting began at Con-way's headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., and elsewhere.
XPO will cut more than 10 percent of Con-way's workforce at Ann Arbor and at its Portland, Ore.-based technology center, according to an individual familiar with the situation. Between 2,500 and 3,000 employees work at both locations, the individual estimated. Included in the cuts will be an entire layer of Con-way upper management, whose elimination will save its new owner about $28 million a year; the managerial segment was not adding much value to the organization, according to the individual.
Also on the chopping block is an 80-person group devoted to developing and implementing "lean" management principles, an ambitious efficiency program that Con-way has championed for years. Shortly after the deal was announced in early September, Bradley S. Jacobs, Greenwich, Conn.-based XPO's chairman and CEO, met in Ann Arbor with leaders of the project and came away dubious that the benefits of the work justified the size of the current headcount, according to the individual.
The individual said that Con-way's drivers are likely not included in the layoffs. It is also unclear whether there will be further rounds of cutbacks
Executives who remain with XPO will be required to sign a two-year noncompete agreement, the individual said. The requirement could result in an exodus of top-level employees, who may wish to stay, but may worry they will find their hands tied should they subsequently find opportunities elsewhere in the industry.
The cuts, which had been expected internally for weeks, include employees in administration, operations, sales, and information technology, according to the individual. XPO declined comment other than a statement from Jacobs in announcing the deal's close that "we're moving quickly to eliminate redundancies and leverage our scale to better serve our more than 50,000 customers." At the time the deal was announced, XPO pledged to improve Con-way's operating profit by up to $420 million over the next two years. Part of that will come from cost cuts.
Con-way's four operating divisions—Con-way Freight; truckload carrier Con-way Truckload; third-party logistics-services provider Menlo Worldwide Logistics; and freight broker and intermodal marketing company Con-way Multimodal—have been rebranded as XPO Logistics. Menlo and Con-way Multimodal will be immediately integrated into existing XPO Logistics units operating in identical segments. Con-way Truckload, which as Contract Freighters Inc. was bought by Con-way in 2007 for $750 million and which today might fetch a little more than half that, will likely be sold for what Jacobs believes is the right price. He has said the unit might have value as a hauler of brokered freight.
Jacobs said earlier this month that XPO had received three unsolicited offers for Con-way Truckload. He wouldn't identify the bidders or the price of each offer.
Con-way Freight generates about $3.3 billion in annual revenue, which is more than half of the parent's $5.8 billion in revenue. It is known for providing excellent customer service, but in recent years has struggled to operate efficiently, or as profitably as many investors would like. Con-way Freight has specialized in the premium segment, where time in transit is compressed and service levels are relatively high. However, about three-quarters of LTL traffic moves in slower, more economical services, an area where the unit had little, if any, involvement.
Jacobs said earlier this month the new LTL unit will focus far more on the economy category, and could leverage the network of the former Pacer International, an intermodal provider with a great deal of equipment that XPO acquired in early 2014.
XPO has engaged recruiting firm Spencer Stuart to find a replacement for Joseph M. Dagnese, the head of Con-way Freight, who had been expected to leave the company at the time the deal closed. The complexity of integrating Con-way, and in particular positioning the LTL unit for future success, means that XPO will take its foot off the acquisition brake for at least a year, Jacobs said recently. Through 17 acquisitions in the past four years as well as internal expansion, XPO has gone from a company that didn't exist in late 2010 to a $15 billion firm today.