The CEO of CN Rail plans to retire this winter, the railway announced on Tuesday, Oct 19.

Jean-Jacques (JJ) Ruest will retire as president and chief executive officer, as well as board member for the company, at the end of January 2022 “or such later time as a successor has been appointed to ensure a flawless transition,” said CN.

The announcement coincided with the release of CN’s third quarter financials, and comes a month after CN dropped out of the heated contest with CP Rail to acquire Kansas City Southern.

Several shareholders called for Ruest’s resignation after the proposed CN-KCS deal failed to receive a critical approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in late August.

CN Rail CEO JJ Ruest (supplied)

“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 September 17th, 2021, which is beginning to demonstrate results,” said CN board chair Robert Pace, in a statement issued Tuesday. “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.”

“I have been honoured 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,” said Ruest. “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.”

No successor has been named. CN’s board has appointed a search committee to replace Ruest and says all qualified internal and external candidates will be considered.

The railway reported a $182 million, or 5 per cent, increase in revenue in the third quarter, mainly due to “freight rate increases, higher applicable fuel surcharge rates, and an increase in intermodal ancillary services.” The gains were offset by the stronger Canadian dollar and lower volumes of grain in Western Canada compared with the same period in 2020.

CN announced a new strategic plan on September 17, which includes a share buyback program, a 17 per cent reduction in capital spending in 2022, and lay-offs for 1,050 employees, including 650 managers.

Rival CP Rail will report its third quarter financials on Wednesday, Oct. 20.

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