Phoenix International
Growth, Transparency, Teamwork
The Real Rambaud
May 9, 2008
Richard Armstrong

Key Personnel:
Stephane Rambaud, President & CEO
Bill McInerney, Chairman
Emil Ray Sanchez, CFO

Phoenix International – that little Chicago based freight forwarder – isn’t anymore. With continuing annual growth at 20%, the company has reached 1,700 employees in 76 of its own locations. In the process, the basic components of founder Bill McInerney’s personality, including company transparency and the friendly work environment, have become ongoing parts of the corporate culture. As verification, Phoenix was named one of the best companies to work for by Crain’s Chicago Business.

Stephane Rambaud took over from McInerney as president and chief executive officer nine months ago and continues to stress the importance of Phoenix’s culture. With a few design changes, Rambaud is steering Phoenix to becoming a global supply chain manager (GSCM).

As a result of the Phoenix team effort, gross revenues should reach $850 million in 2008. Its gross margin runs around 18% and earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) margin is about 20% of gross margin. Most of the financial results Phoenix achieves exceed those of industry pacesetter Expeditors International.

One of its strengths is the intellectual capital at Phoenix. There are 42 licensed customs brokers, over 50 information technology employees and a host of modeling specialists. These experts are vital to day-to-day operations that processed over 330,000 shipments in 2007. Included were 180,000 TEUs (twenty foot equivalent units) and 50,000 tons of airfreight.

Overseas, the major international operations are in China (16 offices), India (12 offices) and the UK (5 offices). Rambaud and his VPs are now moving to further develop Latin America.

Specializations include vendor managed inventory (VMI) from Chinese sourcing/part locations and garment on hanger (GOH) moves to the US and UK. Phoenix also has the largest freight forwarding operation in St. Louis (120 employees), a significant presence in Springfield, IL and a large office in Kansas City as part of a strong Midwestern US concentration.

Not only has Phoenix expanded in Tier 2 sized American cities, it has built its business on medium-sized clients. The Phoenix corporate culture is a nice match for these companies. At the same time, Phoenix’s customer base stays very diversified. The top 20 accounts provide only 15% of the company’s gross profits.

A major service for Phoenix is LCL (less than container load) consolidation. Phoenix handles purchase orders and regularly direct loads to specific destinations bypassing intervening distribution centers. Value-added services are provided for total supply chain management.

Rambaud’s family was involved in the international shipping industry in France before World War II. Stephane immigrated to the US in 1985 and he has been working at Phoenix for 23 years. He is a very experienced, bi-cultural 44 year old ready to move Phoenix into the big time.


Sources: A&A Primary Research,

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