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Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg

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Canadian National Railway President and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Jacques Ruest has laid the groundwork for his retirement from the company.

In a release Tuesday afternoon, the railway said Ruest will step down from his executive duties and his role as a board director at the end of January, or at a later time to ensure a “flawless transition” with his successor.

CN said its board has established a CEO search committee to identify a global search for the railway’s next leader.

“I would like to thank JJ for his dedicated service to CN over 25 years and as CEO since 2018. He has provided the company and all of our stakeholders with strong and inspired leadership,” said CN Chair Robert Pace in a release. He added that Ruest deferred his retirement to oversee the company’s ill-fated attempt to acquire Kansas City Southern and the new strategy update that was released last month.

Ruest’s retirement announcement comes in the early stages of a proxy battle with TCI Fund Management Ltd., one of CN’s top shareholders, which has stated one of its goals is to eventually see Ruest replaced by industry veteran, and former CN Rail executive, Jim Vena.

“Dismissing the same CEO that the board put in place just three short years ago is a good start, but it does not address the fundamental problem of a lack of leadership, failed strategic oversight, and the vacuum of operational expertise at the board level,” said TCI Founder and Portfolio Manager Chris Hohn in a statement Tuesday afternoon.