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Originally published May 15, 2014 at 5:27 PM | Page modified May 16, 2014 at 6:54 AM

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Rose quits as Expeditors chairman amid signs of investor unrest

Expeditors had said earlier the company’s former co-founder and CEO expected to remain chairman unitl May 2015.


Seattle Times business reporter

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Regime change at Expeditors International of Washington is becoming bumpier than expected.

Peter Rose, the colorfully outspoken executive whobuilt the Seattle company into a global logistics powerhouse before stepping down as CEO in March, unexpectedly resigned this week as chairman of the Expeditors board. The company earlier said he was expected to keep that role until May 2015.

In March, veteran Expeditors executive and Rose’s son-in-law Jeffrey Musser became CEO.

A company statement Monday indicated the longtime chieftain’s move was about getting out of the way of generational change. It said Rose explained his decision in a letter by saying that “just as eagles instinctively know when to fly away, it was important that his continued presence not overshadow the Senior Management team’s ability to pursue the same kind of experience he and co-founder James Wang had when they established Expeditors.”

Yet Rose’s departure also comes as the company seeks to break out of a multiyear lull that has fostered some discontent among shareholders.

Its shares, at $45.93 Thursday, are still trading below their 2006 peak of $56.01.

At the annual shareholders meeting last week, the company’s executive-compensation plan got a thumbs-down in a nonbinding vote.

Stockholders may be restive because “the company over the last few years has not been growing at the rate it once was,” said Mike Roarke, an analyst with McAdams Wright Ragen.

The news about Rose, unveiled a few days after the shareholders meeting, “feels a bit abrupt,” Roarke said.

He added that a member of his firm’s research team who attended the May 7 meeting said the gathering was uncharacteristically short and that executives took no questions.

Adding to the shifting landscape at Expeditors: A new stakeholder with a reputation for shaking things up, ValueAct Capital Management of San Francisco, on Wednesday reported an $87 million position in Expeditors, according to a securities filing.

It’s a relatively small stake in the $9 billion company, but ValueAct has made itself a name as an activist investment fund.

It’s the investor that agitated against Steve Ballmer’s leadership of Microsoft and landed a seat on the software giant’s board.

Neither Expeditors nor ValueAct responded to a request for comment.

Ángel González: 206-464-2250 or agonzalez@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle



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