CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison has died

Harrison took medical leave Thursday

CSX Chief Executive Officer and President E. Hunter Harrison (Photo: CSX website) on image of CSX locomotives

WELLINGTON, Fla. (AP/WJXT) – E. Hunter Harrison, the president CEO of railroad giant CSX, has died, the company announced Saturday. He was 73.    

CSX confirmed Harrison's death in the following statement:

"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 entire CSX family mourns this loss."

His death comes only a couple days after the company announced he was taking an unplanned medical leave of absence.    

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Harrison was a long-time railroad executive who made his career turning around railroads. Before joining CSX in March, Harrison was president and CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and the Canadian National Railway Company. He also was the head of the Illinois Central Railway in the 1990s.    

"Hunter was a larger-than-life figure who brought his remarkable passion, experience and energy in railroading to CSX," the company said in a statement.    

He was hired by Florida-based CSX in March under shareholder pressure. But recently there had been concerns about his health. The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Harrison often worked from home and occasionally required portable oxygen. 

CSX shares fell sharply when the company announced Harrison was taking an unexpected leave of absence due to a medical condition. By Thursday’s close, shares fell 10.3 percent -- a $4 billion market loss, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Edward Kelly, chairman of CSX's board of directors said that Jim Foote, who was named acting CEO when Harrison took the leave of absence, will continue in his role as acting CEO.

Kelly called Harrison's death "a major loss" to the company but said they would try to implement some of the ideas Harrison had for the railroad before his death.

Harrison is survived by his wife and two daughters.