Embattled CEO of Canadian railway CN to retire

CN’s board of directors to conduct search for replacement

JJ Ruest will retire from his role as CEO of CN, effective in January 2022 or until a successor has been appointed, the Canadian railway announced late Tuesday.

Ruest’s departure comes as activist investor TCI Fund Management is pushing CN shareholders to consider installing former CN (NYSE: CNI) and former Union Pacific executive Jim Vena as CEO following CN’s failed bid to acquire Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU). 

During an earnings call to discuss third-quarter 2021 financial results with investment analysts late Tuesday afternoon, Ruest said that CN’s board would be in charge of the search, which could include other candidates besides Vena. CN’s board will also be responsible for interfacing with TCI regarding efforts to bolster operations, Ruest said.

“I have been honored to lead CN during my time as chief executive officer, and I am confident that the company is well positioned to continue to thrive following my retirement,” Ruest said in a release. “The strength of the company’s management team and board allow me to announce my planned retirement knowing that the company we have built will continue to prosper.”  

Robert Pace, chair of CN’s board of directors, said in a release, “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank JJ for his dedicated service to CN over 25 years and as CEO since 2018. He has provided the company and all of our stakeholders with strong and inspired leadership. JJ deferred discussions on his retirement plans in order to see the company through the potential merger with KCS and closing of the transaction and the introduction of the strategic plan announced on [Sept. 17], which is beginning to demonstrate results. We are grateful for his leadership and his exemplary commitment of service to the company and wish him the all the best in his upcoming retirement.” 

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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.