As CSX Corp. officials talk with investors and analysts ahead of a key shareholder vote next month, they are being confronted with the same awkward question: How is the health of the railway's new chief executive, Hunter Harrison?
Since the 72-year-old Mr. Harrison won an activist battle to take the helm at CSX earlier this year, company watchers have been puzzled by the outspoken railway maverick's low profile. He appears no more than a few days a week at CSX's Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters and he has been spotted using a portable, over-the-shoulder oxygen system, say people familiar with the matter.
The railroad's shareholders are set to vote June 5 at their annual meeting on a resolution to pay $84 million to reimburse Mr. Harrison for compensation he surrendered when he resigned from another railroad to pursue the top job at CSX. He has a four-year contract with CSX.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Harrison said he has been cleared by his doctors to work and that his fellow CSX board members are aware of his medical condition, which requires him to sometimes use the oxygen system. He declined to discuss the details of his condition and said the board has decided the matter isn't sufficiently material to the company's performance to disclose.
"There are times when I get a little shortness of breath so I take oxygen and it helps. Sometimes I get a cough and the oxygen makes it go away," said Mr. Harrison, who took a medical leave in 2015 to recover from a surgery and a bout of pneumonia.
CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said Mr. Harrison "has been and continues to be actively and deeply involved on a daily basis" but declined to discuss the CEO's medical condition. "In the absence of performance questions, as a matter of policy we do not comment on health-related matters of any CSX executive."
Edward Kelly, an independent CSX director who will take over as the company's chairman at the annual meeting, declined to comment.
Write to Jacquie McNish at Jacquie.McNish@wsj.com, Paul Ziobro at Paul.Ziobro@wsj.com and Joann S. Lublin at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 17, 2017 16:27 ET (20:27 GMT)