UNION Pacific (UP) has announced that it will split the responsibilities of outgoing president and CEO, Mr Lance Fritz, across three positions upon his departure on August 14.

Mr Jim Vena will return to UP as CEO and a member of the board. Ms Beth Whited, who since February 2022 has served as the railway’s executive vice-president, sustainability and strategy, and chief human resources officer, will become president, reporting to Vena. Mr Mike McCarthy, UP’s lead independent director, becomes chairman of the board.

Vena will oversee operations, finance, marketing and sales, supply chain, and technology. He is returning to UP after serving as COO from 2019 to 2020 and as a senior advisor to the chairman in 2021. Prior to that, Vena spent four decades at Canadian National (CN), starting his career as a brakeman and rising through the ranks to senior management positions across operations, marketing and sales. He served most recently as executive vice-president and COO from 2013 to 2016.

Vena is a member of the FedEx board of directors, where he serves on the audit and finance and governance, safety and public policy committees, and of Direct ChassisLink (DCLI), a privately held company, where he serves as chair of the audit committee.

“One of the most vital characteristics we considered as we conducted the search to identify the next CEO was extensive railroad operating experience,” McCarthy says. “Jim has that and more. After a comprehensive search process, the board unanimously determined that his track record of operating excellence was unparalleled, and he is the right candidate for the job.

“In addition to his 40-plus year career with CN, Jim knows UP’s operations firsthand, demonstrates the ability to deliver strong results, and is passionate about returning to the UP team. Under Jim’s leadership, the board looks forward to continued success driving safety and service improvements, generating greater shareholder returns, and creating value for all stakeholders.”

“I am excited about returning to Union Pacific and look forward to the journey to be the safest, most reliable and most efficient railroad in the industry,” Vena says. “Working closely with the entire team, my focus from day one will be to ensure the company delivers industry-leading customer and operating excellence, cultivates and empowers our employees, and cares for the communities in which we operate. These efforts will generate strong shareholder returns.”

Beth Whited will become UP's first female president.

Whited will be responsible for strategy, workforce resources, sustainability, law, corporate relations and government affairs functions in her new role as president, reporting to Vena. She will be the first female president in UP’s history.

“I care deeply about the Union Pacific team and the many stakeholders who rely upon us,” Whited says. “I am very proud of what we stand for and am looking forward to continuing my career at a company that has been transformational to our world and my life. I look forward to working with Jim and the rest of our team as we strive to make Union Pacific one of the strongest franchises in America.”

UP confirmed plans to replace Fritz in February as it came under pressure from hedge fund, Soroban Capital Partners, to appoint Vena as CEO immediately. Fritz expressed his gratitude to “the stakeholders of UP” for offering him the privilege of leading the historic company for the past eight years.

“I am pleased by the progress we’ve made together to enhance value for our stakeholders and chart a strong path forward. I welcome Jim back to Union Pacific and am confident that we have the right leaders to advance the hard work under way,” Fritz says.