Canadian Pacific hires Canadian National executive as COO

Mon Feb 4, 2013 12:17pm EST
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By Solarina Ho and Euan Rocha

TORONTO (Reuters) - Hunter Harrison, brought in to engineer a turnaround at Canadian Pacific Railway, has tapped a former protege as the company's president and chief operating officer.

CP said on Monday that Keith Creel would join on Tuesday from Canadian National Railway,, the railroad that Harrison had previously run.

Creel, who is widely expected to succeed Harrison eventually at the helm of CP, was previously executive vice president and chief operating officer at CN Rail - a job he had held since 2010.

Harrison became CP's chief executive officer last year after a bruising proxy battle led by William Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management Ltd, the U.S. hedge fund that is the company's largest shareholder, with a stake of about 14 percent.

Harrison, Ackman's preferred candidate for the job, turned CN into North America's most efficient railroad during his period as CEO, and it had been widely expected that he would ask Creel to follow him to CP.

"Creel would be a natural successor," said Morningstar analyst Keith Schoonmaker. "Who better to execute Hunter Harrison's operating plan than the chief operating officer that he groomed to do it at another railroad that also has operations in Canada and the U.S.?"

Harrison has already hinted that the railroad's next COO could be its next boss. Last fall he told analysts that his time at CP would not be "a long journey" and that he only planned to stay at the helm for three to five years.

"Obviously the selection of a COO would be some indication that here's the next successor, if they don't blow it," Harrison said at the time.   Continued...