Canadian National announces departure of CEO Luc Jobin

Marketing chief Jean-Jacques Ruest named interim CEO
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Jean-Jacques Ruest, interim Canadian National CEO
Canadian National
Luc Jobin
Canadian National
MONTREAL — Canadian National’s board of directors announced a management shakeup today, naming Chief Marketing Officer Jean-Jacques Ruest as interim chief executive amid the abrupt and unexpected departure of CEO Luc Jobin.

It was not clear if the congestion issues on CN’s Western Corridor contributed to Jobin’s exit after just 18 months as CEO. CN declined to comment beyond its news release.

“The board believes the company needs a leader who will energize the team, realize CN’s corporate vision, and take the company forward with the speed and determination CN is known for,” Chairman Robert Pace said in a statement.

CN’s traffic surged by 20 percent or more across Western Canada in the fall, gumming up yards, clogging main lines, and leaving CN short of both crews and power.

Harsh winter weather, derailments, and related line shutdowns forced CN to shorten, delay, and detour trains at various times over the past few months, further raising costs as train speeds dropped and cars spent more time in yards.

But CN stepped up hiring, leased and ordered new locomotives, accelerated capacity expansion projects, and this year plans to spend a record $3.2 billion to maintain and boost its network. Executives said the additional resources and capacity would help CN begin to restore service levels by midyear.

Ruest, a 22-year CN veteran who has been chief marketing officer for the past eight years, will lead the railway until a permanent CEO is named.

“Mr. Ruest is well known to customers and investors, and is well-positioned to focus the company and its very experienced and proven team of railroaders to rapidly address operational challenges during the transition,” Pace said.

CN’s board believes the company must respond quickly to retain its position as an industry leader.
“CN must accelerate execution of the innovation strategy articulated at our Investor Day last June,” Pace said in a statement. “The board is confident this remains the right course to restore and retain industry-leading metrics and best in class customer service.”

Ruest will certainly face questions about the transition during his scheduled appearance at the JP Morgan Transportation and Industrial Conference on March 14.

Independent railroad analyst Anthony Hatch of ABH Consulting was surprised by Jobin’s departure.

“Luc is one of the best managers — and people — in North American freight railroading,” Hatch says.

Naming Ruest as interim CEO was a “terrific choice,” Hatch says.

“Great railroads are great in operations and leverage that from a marketing perspective. J.J. ‘gets’ that,” he says.

Jobin succeeded CEO Claude Mongeau on July 1, 2016, after Mongeau stepped down due to health issues. Jobin joined CN as chief financial officer in 2009 following a career as a senior executive at Imasco, Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco, and Power Corporation.

When Jobin was named CEO, CN said it had “greatly benefitted from his very broad business experience over the last seven years as he set out to strengthen the finance, information technology, and strategic planning functions.”
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