For all Hunter Harrison’s unquestionable talents, he is really bad at one thing: not working. The celebrated railway executive officially retired from Canadian National Railway Company (CN) in 2009, after a long career running railways. A little more than two years later, at the encouragement of activist investor Bill Ackman, Harrison came out of retirement to become president and CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).
His plan was to step away, again, this summer, when he was scheduled to hand the CEO reins to longtime lieutenant Keith Creel and start a three-year tenure as a consultant (or, in his own words, a “hired hand”) to the railway. That arrangement suggested the transition of power would be a gradual process. But earlier this year, CP announced Harrison would be departing immediately to pursue other opportunities. For his early departure, Harrison will forfeit some $118 million in benefits that had been awaiting him. Hours later, several reports emerged suggesting that Harrison will be partnering with another activist investor to take control of U.S. railway CSX Corp.