- FedEx Express executive Richard Smith will take over as its president and CEO on Sept. 1, succeeding the retiring Donald Colleran, the company announced Thursday.
- Smith, son of FedEx founder, Chairman and CEO Fred Smith, is currently regional president of the Americas and executive vice president of global support of FedEx Express, FedEx's largest operating company and the world's largest cargo airline. After Richard Smith's promotion, Colleran will remain with the company as an executive advisor through the end of the year.
- Colleran has served in several high-ranking positions during his tenure at FedEx, including chief sales officer, before assuming his current role in 2019. He joined FedEx from Flying Tigers when the cargo airline was acquired in 1989.
Richard Smith has risen quickly through the ranks at FedEx. Since joining the transportation giant in 2005, he's held executive positions at FedEx Express, was CEO of FedEx Logistics and served in leadership roles in life sciences, healthcare and customer solutions.
Smith became a prominent public face of FedEx Express during the ramp up and launch of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort, touting the company's global network and previous experience handling high-value goods for fast and secure shipping.
"This is what we were built for, and we plan for things like this regularly," Smith told the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety in December 2020. "Maybe not on this scale with all of the ins and outs, but we are well-versed in this type of planning."
Smith takes the reins of FedEx Express and its fleet of 680 aircraft at a time when air cargo services are in high demand. Passenger airline struggles have kept belly capacity limited since the pandemic began, conditions which have benefited the company along with a surge in e-commerce shipments. FedEx Express' revenue jumped 18% from fiscal year 2020 to 2021.
"Capacity is light, and we think it will continue to remain that way," Colleran said on a March 2021 earnings call. "Until people start traveling again on an intercontinental basis, we don't think that happens for the next 12 to 18 months because of the various levels of quarantine restrictions that are in all parts of the globe."
Prior to the pandemic, FedEx Express was in a slump. Soft international demand, particularly in Europe, came amid tariffs and U.S. trade disputes under then-President Donald Trump that Fred Smith frequently spoke out against. Colleran took over as president and CEO during this period, succeeding Raj Subramaniam, who is now president and COO of FedEx.
"From launching new capabilities for our customers to leading our global FedEx Express team during some of the most challenging times, including the COVID-19 pandemic, Don has been instrumental in creating and executing our remarkable global growth strategy," Subramaniam said in a statement.
Now, Smith will be asked to lead FedEx Express as the company leverages the current supply-demand imbalance in air cargo and attempts to gain momentum in Europe with the full integration of TNT Express. The company is also electrifying its pickup and delivery fleet and approaching the 2024 expiration of its domestic airport-to-airport transportation contract with the Postal Service, FedEx Express' largest customer as of May 2021.
"Richard has a deep understanding of our business and has played a pivotal role in many of our most important initiatives, including our electric vehicle strategy and our life-saving vaccine distribution efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic," Subramaniam said. "With the outstanding executive management team we have in place to execute our strategy, including leaders like Richard, I am confident in the future of FedEx."