BNSF’s long-serving executive chairman Matthew Rose to retire next April

Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett with Matthew Rose ( Photo: BNSF )

Long-serving railroad man led BNSF through acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway.

BNSF announced that former chief executive Matthew Rose will retire from a his role as executive chairman of the largest freight railroad in the U.S. effective next April.

Rose, 58, was named chief executive of BNSF in 2000. He led the company as it was wholly acquired by investment manager Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A) in 2010 in a $26.5 billion deal.

He remained CEO of the company through 2013, after which he was appointed to the executive chairman role and leading marketing and public policy efforts. His name was also dropped as a potential successor to Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway.

“I have been incredibly fortunate to work alongside some of the most talented people in the transportation industry,” Rose said. “Through my 26 years at BNSF­ – 19 in leadership – I have seen enormous change in our economy.

“Our company has navigated those changes well and now is extremely well positioned for the next several decades. It has been an honor to lead this organization, as a publicly traded company and also as part of Berkshire Hathaway,” Rose said.

Under Rose’s leadership, BNSF became one of the largest intermodal carriers in North America as the company sought other markets outside of traditional commodities such as coal and grain.

“It was a very lucky day for me and for Berkshire Hathaway when I met Matt Rose,” said Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. “Under Matt’s management, BNSF has become a major source of profit and pride for Berkshire. And, as a citizen, Matt has been an exemplar for corporate leadership.”

Brian Bowers, a member of the FreightWaves advisory committee and a former executive with Kansas City Southern and Schneider National, is unique for railroad executives for coming up outside the industry. Prior to his time at BNSF, Rose worked at Schneider and bi-modal transportation firm Triple Crown.

“He definitely understands the customer experience better than most,” Bowers said. “In an industry dominated by operations personnel, Matt really bought a commercial mindset to the industry.”

Rose was succeeded in the CEO role by Carl Ice, 61. Ice, along with BNSF chief financial officer Julie Piggott, chief marketing officer Stevan Bobb, and vice president of public affairs Roger Nober serve as BNSF’s board of directors.

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Michael Angell, Bulk and Intermodal Editor

Michael Angell covers maritime, intermodal and related topics for FreightWaves. His interest in transportation stretches back several generations. One great-grandfather was a dray horseman along the New York waterfront and another was a railway engineer in Texas. More recently, Michael has written about the shipping industry for TradeWinds, energy markets for Oil Price Information Service, and general business topics for FactSet Mergerstat and Investor's Business Daily. When he is not stuck in the office, he enjoys tours of ports, terminals, and railyards.