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CN names Tracy Robinson as new president

Robinson most recently served in energy sector, also spent nearly 30 years at CP

CN has named Tracy Robinson as its next CEO, effective Feb. 28. (Photos: CN)

Former Canadian Pacific executive Tracy Robinson will be the next president and CEO of CN, the railway said in a late Tuesday announcement that coincided with CN’s release of fourth-quarter 2021 earnings results.

Robinson’s appointment is effective Feb. 28, the day that current President and CEO JJ Ruest retires. Ruest will stay on in an advisory role through March 31, CN (NYSE: CNI) said. 

Robinson has been at Canadian energy pipeline operator TC Energy since 2014, currently serving as executive vice president and president of Canadian Natural Gas Pipelines and president of Coastal GasLink.

Prior to her time at TC Energy, Robinson served at CP (NYSE: CP) for 27 years, assuming executive roles in commercial, operations and finance.

“This is a transformational period at CN, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities ahead. Our focus is on building the railway of the future — one that creates shareholder value by meeting the needs of our customers, employees, communities and the economies that depend on us, safely, reliably and efficiently,” Robinson said. “I look forward to working closely with CN’s extremely talented railroaders, board and management team as we take CN to the next level of performance and industry leadership.”

Said Robert Pace, chair of the board of directors for CN: “We are thrilled to have Tracy join CN as president and CEO and are confident that CN has the right team to lead it into the next phase of growth. She brings more than 35 years of operational management, strategy development and project execution experience to drive growth and profitability.”


CN also has appointed Jean Charest as an independent director of CN’s board and Shaundeen Bruder as vice chair. Charest, who has had a public service career spanning almost 30 years, was the 29th premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012, during which he implemented a major infrastructure investment program and was engaged in environmental and climate change issues, CN said.

CN also said it will appoint two new independent directors with North American railroad experience to the board.

Robinson’s appointment brings to an end the calls from activist investor Chris Hohn, founder and portfolio manager of London-based TCI Fund Management, to shake up CN’s leadership. 

TCI pressed for Ruest’s removal last fall following CN’s failed attempt to acquire Kansas City Southern, and it sought to replace Ruest with former Union Pacific executive Jim Vena. As the public spat between CN and TCI continued, Ruest announced his retirement plans and also CN’s search for his successor while TCI asked for a special shareholder meeting. Vena had been in the running for CEO but later withdrew his name.

But on Tuesday, TCI said it had agreed to withdraw its request for a special shareholder meeting March 22 to discuss the CEO role and TCI’s four proposed candidates to CN’s board.

“We are pleased to reach an arrangement that will strengthen CN’s board with the addition of two new highly qualified directors. TCI looks forward to constructive future engagement with CN,” Hohn said.

Said Pace: “We are pleased to have appointed a world-class CEO to lead CN during our next phase of growth and announced that we are continuing to add more highly qualified independent directors to our board. We have appreciated the input we have received from our shareholders throughout this process and are very excited about all that CN can achieve as we build the railway of the future.”

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.