How Michael Riggs used his forte of turning companies around at Jack Cooper Holdings

T. Michael Riggs, chairman, Jack Cooper Holdings

T. Michael Riggs, chairman, Jack Cooper Holdings

STL Ernst & Young Entreprneur of the Year




T. Michael Riggs


Jack Cooper Holdings


Jack Cooper Holdings Chairman T. Michael Riggs is an optimist. How else can you explain why he bought his largest competitor in the car-hauling industry, which was 10 times the size of his company and on a downward spiral at the beginning of the recession?

Riggs shared the step-by-step details of his vision with his board and co-workers, but it didn’t hurt that he had done it before — three times.

He’s taken four struggling companies and turned them around by applying two principles. First, Riggs learned long ago that he’s a problem-solver, not a problem pointer-outer. Second, his success is tied to what he calls the “Zoe Philosophy,” which focuses on building a company for the long term, considering how business decisions will not only impact the company today but also for the next 20 years.

When Riggs bought Jack Cooper in 2009, the company was about to go bankrupt. U.S. sales had dropped from 17 million cars to 11 million, and car-hauling companies were closing.

He first focused on hiring — yes, hiring — the right employees.

Then, Riggs implemented a relentless focus on EBITDA with terminal managers and teams. Identifying unprofitable terminals and routes, he parked trucks rather than run unprofitable routes. This paid off when both GM and Toyota, his largest clients, suddenly put in large orders for the following week. The two were facing significant rate increases elsewhere.

As the largest trucking based car-hauler in the U.S., Jack Cooper continues to grow and has more than 2,500 employees. Riggs’s experience allows him to see where changes can be made, contracts adjusted and efficiencies identified.

The company has differentiated itself from competitors by building a new internal tablet-based system that considerably increases driver efficiency, invoicing processes and route selection. Another development is route and load modeling.

Riggs also continually looks at acquisitions for Jack Cooper, both in the U.S. and abroad.

How to reach: Jack Cooper Holdings,