Fred Smith gets new heir apparent after shock exit of FedEx COO

Raj Subramaniam, current president and CEO of FedEx Express

FedEx Corp. named a new No. 2 executive after company founder Fred Smith’s top deputy resigned abruptly, just weeks after joining the company’s board of directors.

Raj Subramaniam will take over as president and chief operating officer (COO) March 1, replacing David Bronczek, FedEx said in a statement Thursday. Bronczek, 64, made a “personal decision’’ to retire, the company said. He joined FedEx in 1976.

“We recognize Dave for his years of service to FedEx. FedEx has a deep bench of talent, and I am confident that the transition will be seamless,” Smith said in the statement. “Raj has significant experience in many areas of our portfolio, which will be vital as he steps into this position.’’

David Bronczek, outgoing COO

Subramaniam’s appointment vaults him to the front of the line as heir apparent to Smith, 74, as FedEx contends with a slowdown in international markets and a lagging stock price. In December, the Memphis, Tennessee-based company announced an employee buyout program along with lower discretionary spending and a reduction in overseas network capacity at Express.

The shares fell 1 percent to $182 after the close of regular trading in New York. FedEx fell 24 percent over the last 12 months, compared with a 4.9 percent gain for rival United Parcel Service Inc.

Subramaniam, 52, was promoted in December to lead the company’s Express air-cargo unit. Before that, the 27-year veteran of FedEx served as chief marketing and communications officer.

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