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Railroad Megadeal Marks the Payoff for Gamble by CP Boss Creel

  • Creel tapped his operating experience to win KC Southern prize
  • Acquisition lifts CP CEO from mentor Hunter Harrison’s shadow
Keith Creel
Keith CreelPhotographer: James MacDonald/Bloomberg

When a rival threatened to steal Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.’s dream acquisition, Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel bet his company’s future on a hunch supported by his younger days operating trains across the central U.S.

Creel knew that the acquisition target, Kansas City Southern, and its other suitor, Canadian National Railway Co., vied for many of the same customers along a vast corridor that stretches from the Midwest to the U.S. Gulf Coast -- a span much larger than the 70 miles of overlap in Louisiana that Canadian National had acknowledged in a regulatory filing. 

Creel “operated on that line. He knew that line like the back of his hand,” said Jason Seidl, a Cowen Inc. analyst, in an interview. “Keith had a better understanding than almost anybody did in terms of this transaction and some of the facts and sticking points around it.”