In this piece, we’d like to honor the life of an industry legend — Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the owner of CenTra, Inc., and the iconic Ambassador Bridge. He built a career generating high-profile controversy. Certain people who make their mark on an industry — like Moroun — who deserve recognition and reverence. Our team here at yourLTL recognizes and acknowledges his career, accomplishments, and contributions to the industry.
A key player in Detroit’s reinvention
Moroun was born from immigrant parents in 1927 in Detroit, Michigan. He became a self-made billionaire… but the road to success was paved with many twists and turns. Once an aspiring doctor, after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, by the mid-1950s, he was managing much of the family’s trucking business. He worked hard and, for the most part, avoided the spotlight, photographs, and interviews. He had a very minimal presence in public but was known for being a political donor and a desire to leave a legacy.
The Ambassador Bridge
The international crossing that connects Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, is known as The Ambassador Bridge, the only privately-owned border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. This bridge is estimated to be worth $1.5-3 billion and was purchased by Moroun in 1979. When he acquired the bridge, it allowed him to expand his trucking company into Canada — a business move that led to him becoming one of the world’s wealthiest people. Ironically, it also earned him the nickname “The Troll Under the Bridge” in a headline in an article in Forbes in 2004. He wasn’t known for being overly kind; he was often described as fair or even “crusty.”
If you’re looking for the common thread… here’s what ties all of this together: Moroun’s company, CenTra, Inc., is the controlling body of Central Transport International, which is an LTL trucking carrier. Also, Moroun had a controlling stake in Universal Truckload Services Inc. — a holding company for several over-the-road truck lines and logistics companies. These include Universal Am-Can Ltd., Mason Dixon Lines, Economy Transport, Cavalry Logistics, Louisiana Transportation, Inc., and more.
Controversial wealth through trucking
A very sharp businessman, Moroun’s nationwide network of trucking companies was an enterprise that he built with heart and soul. He was known as controversial in the business world, as he very carefully protected his interests in The Ambassador Bridge. Around 2010, he got lawmakers to kill legislation to construct a publicly-owned bridge that would have taken away business from his prize possession — The Ambassador Bridge — that connects the U.S. and Canada. Thie earned him much criticism over the years, resulting in a decades-long battle with both governments in Canada and Michigan over crossing rights.
A private philanthropist
Moroun was no stranger to philanthropy or sharing his fortune. He donated more than $200,000 to Community Health and Social Services Center Inc. in 2010, which helped leverage an additional $561k from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a health center in Southwest Detroit. That same year, his family gifted $1 million to a merit scholarship fund at University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. In 2011, The Moroun Family Foundation was established. The goal of the foundation is to support the educational needs of children and adults.
‘Til we meet again
Moved by human causes, Moroun was a quiet, caring soul. He was proud of the companies he built, and when he passed away in July 2020, he left his businesses — and fortune — to his son, Matthew Moroun. He left an important legacy for the transportation industry, and the mark he left on trucking businesses is not soon to be forgotten. RIP Matty.