BNSF shuffle: Ice becomes CEO; Rose now executive chairman

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Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 1:52 am, Tue May 20, 2014.

BNSF Railway, the railroad owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., promoted Carl Ice to chief executive officer, replacing Matt Rose.

Rose will be executive chairman and work with managers over the next decade on long-term organizational planning and public policy, according to a statement Wednesday from the Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad. Berkshire acquired the railroad in 2010 in Buffett's biggest takeover.

“He thinks highly of Rose and wants him to have more responsibility,” said Jeff Matthews, a Berkshire shareholder and author of books about Buffett.

The unit benefited as new drilling technologies boosted oil production in North Dakota and Montana. BNSF is among Omaha-based Berkshire's largest businesses, with operations in 28 states and about 41,000 employees. The railroad contributed $989 million to third-quarter earnings, compared with $937 million a year earlier.

“BNSF's performance has far exceeded the high expectations I had at the time of Berkshire's purchase,” Buffett said in the statement. “The combination of Matt's and Carl's talents is the perfect arrangement for the future.”

Ice, the president and chief operating officer, will become CEO effective Jan. 1, according to the statement. He has been with BNSF for 34 years, and in 1995 led a team that orchestrated the merger of Burlington Northern Railroad and Santa Fe Railway.

The new assignments echo a transition in 2008 when Gregory Abel was promoted to CEO of Berkshire's MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. replacing David Sokol, who stayed on as chairman. The switch allowed Sokol to take on additional responsibilities, such as scouting for acquisitions.

The railroad had $2.8 billion of capital expenditures in the first nine months of this year, according to a Berkshire regulatory filing. The plan included spending on the rail network of about 32,500 miles and the purchase of locomotive and freight cars.

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