Death of CSX CEO raises questions about company's future

E. Hunter Harrison died at 73

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The weekend death of CSX CEO E. Hunter Harrison less than a year after he took the railroad's top job has raised questions about what the future holds for Jacksonville's top Fortune 500 company.

CSX shares fell sharply when the company announced Thursday that Harrison was taking an unexpected leave of absence due to a medical condition. By Friday, shares fell 10.3 percent -- a $4 billion market loss, according to The Wall Street Journal. The stock price closed Monday at $53.39 -- a slight rise. 

On Monday at CSX headquarters in downtown Jacksonville, man people had a wait and see attitude. The company's public relations staff declined to let News4Jax inside to talk to executives. But in a statement issued Saturday, CSX said, in part:

"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."

The statement went on to say, "Hunter was a larger-than-life figure who brought his remarkable passion, experience and energy in railroading to CSX."

Not only do CSX trains carry a lot of freight through Jacksonville, but the company carries a lot of weight in the business circle. It's the largest publicly traded company locally and it's one of Jacksonville's largest employers. In 2011, more than 3,300 of the 21,000 employees nationwide lived in Jacksonville. 

Jane King, the host of "Money Matters" on "The Morning Show," talked about the impact of Harrison's death.

"Top executives, especially disrupters like Harrison, are hard to replace," King said Monday morning.


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