Matthew K. Rose, chairman and CEO of BNSF Railway and a long-rumored successor to Warren E. Buffett as head of BNSF parent Berkshire Hathaway Inc., will become executive chairman of the railroad effective Jan. 1, BNSF said today.
Carl Ice, currently BNSF's president and chief operating officer, will succeed Rose as CEO and remain as president, Fort Worth, Tex.-based BNSF said.
Rose, 54, is one of the nation's most highly regarded business executives. Buffett has identified him as one of several potential successors once the legendary businessman and investor steps down as CEO of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire. Berkshire acquired BNSF for $34 billion in November 2009 in what Buffett described as an "all-in bet" on the U.S. economy and its recovery from the Great Recession.
In a statement, BNSF said Rose will work over the next decade to support BNSF's "strategic positioning for growth and investment, including long-term organizational planning, market positioning, and public policy." Rose has been very active in promoting the industry's position on policy issues.
Ice, a 34-year BNSF veteran, has been its president since 2010. In 1995, he led the team that merged and integrated the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN) and Santa Fe Railway, creating one of the most significant rail combinations in history.
In BN's long history, there has never been an executive chairman's position. Larry Kaufman, a former BN executive and the author of a book on BN and the Santa Fe, said there is little that distinguishes the chairman and executive chairman's positions. "There is only one title that matters, and that's 'boss,' Kaufman said. "And down in Fort Worth, Matt Rose is still called 'boss.'"
Kaufman said he wouldn't be surprised if within a year or so, Rose is transferred to Omaha to become a key strategist to Buffett and Berkshire.