Daseke CEO retires, triggers executive search

ADDISON, Texas – Daseke Inc., North America’s largest flatbed fleet, is now operating under an interim CEO following the retirement of Christopher Easter. Word of Easter’s retirement, effective at the end of 2020, emerged today with news that Daseke director Jonathan Shepko will serve as interim CEO. The board of directors has engaged an executive search firm for a permanent replacement.

The fleet includes more than 5,000 tractors and 11,500 flatbed and specialized trailers. Easter was named CEO last February, after serving in an interim role that began as recently as August 2019. He had previously served as chief operating officer beginning in January 2019.

Chris Easter

“This has been a very difficult decision for me personally, but I have a number of family-related obligations that need my full attention,” Easter said. “We have successfully executed a dramatic turnaround in our performance while navigating through a global pandemic.

Daseke’s strategy is sound, the business is performing well, and the team is poised to continue forward with this momentum. I have an enormous amount of confidence in Daseke’s future.” Board chairman Brian Bonner credited Easter in helping to reset the fleet’s operational strategy and build a leadership team.

“I expect to be fully engaged with the team and leading the organization with assistance from Brian as if my role were permanent. We must continue our transformation,” said Shepko, who is a cofounder and managing partner at Stonehollow Capital Partners. The fleet performed well in the fourth quarter of 2020, Daseke says in a related press release, noting that internal financial forecasts and results were in line with analyst expectations.

Details of those are scheduled to come in a conference call at the end of this month. Don Daseke, who still controls 28% of company stock, built the carrier over a decade of acquisitions. The first came in 2008, with Washington-based Smokey Point Distributing.

Canadian-based Big Freight Systems and Aveda were among those that followed.

Daseke acquired Aveda Transportation and Energy Services, one of North America’s largest oil rig moving companies, in June 2018 for US £42.6 million in cash and paid off US £54.8 million in Aveda debt.

It is now in the midst of winding down Aveda Transportation, and as of the second quarter of 2020 it had divested £48 million in related property and equipment.

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