Colby Howard

Published on April 3, 2024

Featured Article

CSX Corp (CSX) Long: 31.6% Alpha Based on CEO Ability

On April 30, 2018, ManagementTrack recommended a long position on CSX Corp (CSX), predicting a successful turnaround based on the appointment of James Foote as CEO. Our confidence stemmed from Foote’s extensive experience and proven track record in the rail industry, particularly his involvement in implementing Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) at Canadian National Railway (CNR). Our investigative process, which included interviews with former colleagues and industry experts, provided a comprehensive understanding of Foote’s capabilities and how they aligned with CSX’s strategic needs. Over the two-year holding period, CSX outperformed its peers, generating a 31.6% alpha, validating our thesis on the critical role of executive leadership in driving company performance.

ManagementTrack’s Investigative Process

  1. In-depth Interviews: Conducted detailed interviews with former colleagues of James Foote, gaining insights into his leadership style, operational expertise, and past successes.
  2. Industry Analysis: Evaluated the rail industry’s landscape, focusing on the adoption and impact of PSR, to understand the strategic fit for CSX.
  3. Executive Track Record Review: Analyzed Foote’s career trajectory, focusing on his contributions to CNR’s successful implementation of PSR and his potential to replicate this success at CSX.

Why ManagementTrack Believed They Would Succeed

  1. Proven PSR Expertise: Foote’s direct involvement in CNR’s PSR implementation provided him with the necessary experience to lead CSX’s turnaround.
  2. Strategic Fit: His background in sales and marketing, combined with operational acumen, positioned him well to address CSX’s challenges and capitalize on growth opportunities.
  3. Leadership Style: Interviews highlighted Foote’s balanced approach to leadership, suggesting he could effectively manage the transition while maintaining strong customer relationships.

Outcome and Performance

Under James Foote’s leadership, CSX successfully implemented PSR, leading to significant operational improvements and cost efficiencies. The company’s stock outperformed its peers, delivering a 31.6% alpha over the two-year period. This performance underscored the pivotal role of executive leadership in executing strategic transformations and driving shareholder value.

Key Takeaways

  1. Executive Experience Matters: Foote’s prior experience with PSR was directly applicable to CSX’s needs, underscoring the importance of aligning executive backgrounds with company strategy.
  2. Investigative Process Adds Value: ManagementTrack’s thorough investigative process, including interviews with former peers, provided unique insights into Foote’s ability to lead CSX’s turnaround.
  3. Leadership Beyond Numbers: Beyond operational expertise, Foote’s leadership style and ability to manage stakeholder relationships were crucial to the successful implementation of strategic changes.


The successful turnaround of CSX Corp, driven by CEO James Foote, validates ManagementTrack’s thesis on the importance of executive leadership in achieving superior investment returns. Our investigative process, combining in-depth interviews and industry analysis, proved instrumental in identifying the potential for significant alpha generation based on executive ability. This case study underscores the value of a comprehensive evaluation of executive leadership when assessing investment opportunities.

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