Crane to take flight again

A year after he lost the battle for the company he had started and built into a global force, Eagle Global Logistics founder Jim Crane, is about to launch a new forwarding outfit.

Crane Worldwide Logistics aims to become a billion-dollar-player on the global logistics scene. The plan envisages a network of company-owned offices in over 40 countries, although initially the fledgling outfit will cooperate with agency partners in many markets.

Crane will lead the new company as chairman of the board, assisted by a management crew recruited largely from the ranks of former EGL executives who left the company with him after the takeover by Ceva Logistics. CWL top brass includes former EGL managers John Magee as chief executive officer and Keith Winters, as chief operations officer. The launch comes after the one-year non-compete agreements expire that Crane and his colleagues signed as they left EGL.

“During the past 12 months that EGL/Ceva mandated that I not compete in the logistics industry, we have been able to research acquisitions of some of the most effective supply chain companies in the industry,” Magee said.

He sees a promising niche in the billion-dollar segment. The top 10 forwarders all have revenues in excess of $5 billion, and there are many players around the $100 million mark, but few of them can make the next step and go global, he remarked. “There are not many billion-dollar, customer-centric, high-touch providers.”

Unlike EGL, which started out as a domestic forwarder and expanded into the international arena a decade later, CWL will concentrate on international business, although it will also provide domestic service.

Another major difference is the intended mix of cargo. Where EGL was mainly an airfreight player, with only some 15 per cent of revenues stemming from ocean cargo, CWL aims for a 50:50 balance between the two modes.

At this point, the management team has signed non-disclosure agreements with five companies about possible acquisitions. In addition, CWL intends to open shop in some markets and develop organic growth.

“I can’t announce anything about the acquisitions now, but we will be in between six and 12 countries before the end of this year,” Magee said. Besides its headquarters in Houston, management is looking at the major airfreight gateways in the US. Internationally, the initial focus is on the Asia-Pacific region, India and the Middle East. Europe is on the agenda for phase two of the expansion plan, which will kick in next year.

“In many cases our clients will dictate our priorities in where we will go,” Magee added.

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