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Former Canadian National Railway Co. boss Hunter Harrison has been named chief executive officer of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.
"Following a thorough CEO selection process, the board of directors has endorsed and appointed Harrison as CP's president and CEO," CP chairman Paul Haggis said in a statement Friday. "The board welcomes Harrison's experience and leadership to CP. We look forward to benefiting from his strong track record of service reliability, efficient asset utilization, and strategic capital expenditure."
Harrison, 67, served as CN's president and CEO from 2003 to 2009.
New York-based hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP, CP's largest shareholder, had been touting Harrison as the best candidate to replace Fred Green, who stepped down as CP chief in May after the railway lost a bitter proxy fight against Pershing Square.
"CP is an incredible franchise with significant market opportunity, solid infrastructure, and innovative and hard-working employees," Harrison said. "I am proud to be working with one of North America's iconic companies and I look forward to quickly getting to know the priorities of CP's customers, shareholders, employees, and the communities served by the railway."
While still in high school, he began his railway career in 1963, getting a ground-level view as he oiled wheel bearings under boxcars. Harrison gradually gained promotions, thriving as he took on increasingly greater responsibilities in the rail industry.
He was an executive at Illinois Central Railroad Co. when CN acquired the U.S. freight carrier in 1998. After serving as CN's then-CEO Paul Tellier's right-hand man for five years, Harrison took over the top job at Canada's largest railway in early 2003.
Harrison made his mark with Hunter Camps, retreats where he could easily speak for two hours without any text about the importance of railroading.
In 2005, he published a glossy book titled How We Work and Why, intended to be a Bible for CN employees to follow and the source of inspiration at his Hunter Camps.
He honed CN's push to be a "precision" railroad," concentrating on forming daily schedules for rail cars and following "execution standards" for connections provided by specific districts. Having targets for arrivals and departures is geared toward reducing the "terminal dwell time" at rail yards, where employees get the trains ready to move.
But union leaders complained about CN's ongoing efficiency drive and the focus on reducing the company's operating ratio, a key gauge of productivity that measures operating costs as a percentage of revenue.