Moroun, whose company controlled P.A.M. and Universal, dead at 93

The man who led the family that controls P.A.M. Transportation and 3PL Universal Logistics has died.

Manuel Moroun was 93, according to Detroit-area press reports of his death Sunday. The news stories about him focused on his ownership of the Canada-to-Detroit Ambassador Bridge and his fight to stop an alternative route, the Gordie Howe Bridge, which is now under construction. Moroun’s ownership of the Ambassador Bridge is an anomaly in the U.S. road system; he gained full ownership of the crossing in 1979.

Congestive heart failure was listed as the cause of death. 

In the trucking world, Moroun’s activities were conducted through the CenTra Inc. holding company, which grew out of his trucking company Central Transport. Moroun was chairman of Central Holdings, though his son, Matthew Moroun, had been running the day-to-day operations.  

The Moroun companies control 68% of the shares of P.A.M., according to the company’s 10K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It also controls approximately 71% of the stock in Universal Logistics.

Matthew Moroun is chairman of both companies. He also is interim CEO at P.A.M., following the retirement of President and CEO Dan Cushing in May. P.A.M. stock has suffered in the past year, down 25.6%. 

Universal also changed CEOs in 2020, with Tim Phillips taking over the reins in the first quarter. Universal stock is down 4.12% in the past 52 weeks.

As Crain’s Detroit Business wrote about Moroun’s trucking history, the billionaire got into the sector after working at his father’s gas station. “Moroun bought Central Cartage Co. in the mid-1940s, a hauling company that his son Matty would grow into Central Transport, a multibillion-dollar trucking enterprise spanning North America — and known for its yellow tractor trailers,” Crain’s said.

The Crain’s story quoted the late county executive of Oakland County, L. Brooks Patterson, on what it was like to work with Moroun. “Matty is a fierce competitor,” Patterson was quoted as saying in 2010. “He wouldn’t be where he is in the business world unless he had that competitive spirit. He uses every tool at his disposal.”

His battles extended to family, the Crain’s story said. Moroun got full control of the family business in 1999 when he bought his sisters out after what the newspaper said was a seven-year dispute.

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