The CP-NS stage is set, here are the characters

Trains Industry Newsletter
Get a weekly roundup of the industry news you need.
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine. View our privacy policy.
Hunter Harrison, Canadian National Railway
E. Hunter Harrison
Jim McClellan
As the dust settles from the opening round of denials, offers, and public statements on a proposed Canadian Pacific buy out of Norfolk Southern, here's a look at the leading characters in a drama that is sure to play out for weeks, if not months, to come:

E. Hunter Harrison, Canadian Pacific, CEO
Most railroad chief executives seem to stay out of the public spotlight, but Hunter Harrison doesn't represent most chief executives. Harrison, 71, has been praised by shareholders and villainized by critics for his time as the head of CP, but such polarization makes one thing certain: He cannot be ignored. The American-born railroader got his start as a carman for the Frisco in the 1960s and moved up through the ranks, eventually becoming vice president of Burlington Northern. In the 1980s, he left the BN for the Illinois Central. When the IC was taken over by Canadian National, Harrison became vice president and later chief executive officer. He retired in 2009 but returned to the industry in 2012 at the urging of activist investor Bill Ackman in an effort to turn the CP around. Since then, the railroad has posted record earnings. But Harrison isn't satisfied with retiring and going off into the sunset; for the last few years he has told anyone who would listen that the final round of mergers should happen and happen soon.
James Squires
Norfolk Southern
James Squires, Norfolk Southern, President and CEO
Less than five months into his job as chief executive officer at NS, James Squires is facing perhaps the biggest challenge of his professional career: being the target of a merger proposal by one of railroading's larger-than-life veterans. Squires, 53, is a New Hampshire native and a graduate of Amherst College. After school he served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1985 and then attended the University of Chicago Law School. After graduating with a Juris Doctor degree in 1992 he joined NS and became vice president law in 2003. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming senior vice president law in 2004, senior vice president financial planning in 2006, executive vice president finance in 2007, executive vice president administration in 2012 and president in 2013. In June, Squires succeeded Wick Moorman as CEO.

In the realm of business executives, 53 is relatively young, which puts Squires in position to stay on at NS for years or to play a prominent roll in a combined CP-NS system.
Keith Creel
Canadian Pacific
Keith Creel, Canadian Pacific, president and COO
Keith Creel, 46, began his career as an intermodal ramp manager with BN in Birmingham, Ala. He later worked as a superintendent and general manager on the Grand Trunk Western before becoming a trainmaster on the Illinois Central. There he first crossed paths with Harrison when the IC and CN merged. He rose through the ranks at CN and eventually became executive vice-president and chief operating officer. Not long after Harrison came out of retirement, Creel left CN to become president and chief operating officer at CP. Many believe that Creel will take Harrison's place once the current boss decides to retire.

Creel went to Jackson State University and completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He also served in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. But it's his education under Harrison over the last decade that would make him a likely candidate to lead a combined CP-NS, especially if his current employer is leading the charge.
Mike Wheeler
Norfolk Southern
Mike Wheeler, Norfolk Southern, incoming executive vice president and COO
Mike Wheeler, NS' chief operating officer and its executive vice president starting in February 2016, is no stranger to railroading. He holds degrees from the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech and joined the railroad in 1985 as a research engineer. He has held various jobs over the years, including shop superintendent, trainmaster, division superintendent and general manager. He joined the executive team in 2009 when he was named vice president of transportation. Wheeler has on-the-ground experience that makes him the right guy for the NS No. 2 spot, but also in a combined CP-NS railroad.
The Ensemble Cast:

Andrew Reardon, Canadian Pacific, chairman: Reardon was elected board chairman in July and previously served as chief executive officer of TTX Company.

Bill Ackman, Canadian Pacific, board member: Ackman is the activist investor who helped bring Harrison to the CP and undoubtedly has a prominent within the board of directors.

Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern, retired executive chairman: Moorman has stepped down as executive chairman of NS but is still serving as senior advisor to Squires until Dec. 31. Moorman has come out against mergers in the past and may want to do everything he can to prevent the railroad and its reputation from disappearing into CP red.

The Surface Transportation Board: While Harrison, Squires and everyone else likes to think they hold the keys to their own future, its the three-person Surface Transportation Board that will have the final say in any proposed merger.
Leave a Comment
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Please keep your feedback on-topic and respectful. Trains staffers reserve the right to edit or delete any comments.


The Genesee & Wyoming 

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy
Subscribe Up To 58% off the newsstand price!
Subscribe To Trains Mag Today