CP Rail's Harrison, Installed by Ackman, Returns After Surgery

  • CEO Harrison says, `I'm back on my feet,' after leg surgery
  • Plan for Harrison to remain in charge until mid-2017 is intact

Hunter Harrison, lured out of retirement in 2012 by activist investor Bill Ackman to turn around operations at Canada Pacific Railway Ltd., is back on the job after leg surgery.

Harrison, 70, who helped boost the railroad’s operating ratio to one of the best in North America from one of the worst, said the plan for him to remain CEO until the middle of 2017 is intact. Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel had stepped up his role temporarily while Harrison recovered, which took more time than the few weeks he was supposed to be out when the surgery was announced in July.

“I’m back on my feet,” Harrison said on an earnings conference call Tuesday with analysts. “Most of all the medical issues of any significance are behind me.”

Harrison was hired in 2012 after Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management LP became the carrier’s largest shareholder and pushed to oust CEO Fred Green. Canadian Pacific had long been North America’s least-efficient carrier.

Canadian Pacific reported a third-quarter operating ratio, a measure of efficiency in which a lower number is better, of 59.9 percent as the railroad cut costs amid falling shipments. That ratio was more than 80 percent when Harrison took over. 

Harrison underwent surgery to have stents implanted in his legs. Even while the CEO recovered at home in Connecticut, he remained “actively engaged” in the company’s business, spokesman Marty Cej said last month. Canadian Pacific disclosed Harrison’s health issues on its July 21 earnings conference call.