U.S. investor activist Bill Ackman is stepping up pressure on Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., naming a former head of Alberta Treasury Branches as the sixth nominee to an alternative slate for the freight carrier’s board of directors.
The new nominee is Paul Haggis, chairman of provincially backed Alberta Enterprise Corp., a venture capital firm that invests in technology startups.
Mr. Haggis, 59, has been an activist in his own right in the past, notably a controversial term from 1996 to 2001 at provincially owned Alberta Treasury Branches, now called ATB Financial Inc.
As ATB’s chief executive officer, he tightened the financial institution’s lending practices in the late 1990s, making moves that clashed with Peter Pocklington, the former owner of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Mr. Haggis oversaw the dismantling of Mr. Pocklington’s business empire and also engaged in a bitter legal fight against the Ghermezian family, owners of West Edmonton Mall.
Edmonton-based ATB, a provincial Crown corporation, reached an out-of-court settlement with the Ghermezians in 2002, eight years after Mr. Haggis’s predecessor at ATB approved a $418-million loan package to the shopping mall in a transaction that opposition Alberta politicians dubbed a sweetheart deal.
From 2003 to 2007, Mr. Haggis led the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, one of the country’s largest pension funds. His departure came after a showdown with the board at OMERS.
CP chief executive officer Fred Green has been facing pressure from Mr. Ackman, head of New York-based hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP, to stage a turnaround at the underperforming railway.
Mr. Ackman is waging a proxy battle against Calgary-based CP in his quest to replace Mr. Green with Hunter Harrison, who retired from rival Canadian National Railway Co. in late 2009.
Pershing Square, CP’s largest shareholder, is proposing to elect a minority slate of six alternative directors at the railway’s annual meeting on May 17 in Calgary.
“As an Albertan, I especially understand the importance of CP to Alberta and Canada's economy. CP provides a vital link to our external markets across North America and overseas,” Mr. Haggis said in a statement Wednesday. “I am eager to play a role in Canadian Pacific’s revival, and would be honoured to be given that opportunity by its shareholders.”
Canadian Pacific responded by defending its 15-member board of directors. “CP believes that the best interests of shareholders are served by the continued execution of the multiyear plan, which is already producing results under the oversight of an engaged and qualified board,” CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said.
Besides Mr. Haggis, the other nominees are Mr. Ackman and his Pershing Square colleague Paul Hilal; corporate restructuring specialist Gary Colter; former Onex Corp. executive Anthony Melman; and Rebecca MacDonald, executive chairwoman of Just Energy Group Inc.
Mr. Haggis currently serves as chairman of C.A. Bancorp Inc. and is a director at Advantage Oil & Gas Ltd., Liberty Silver Corp. and UBC Investment Management Trust Inc.
“Paul’s extensive experience leading the successful operational transformations of major Canadian institutions, including his expertise in pension fund oversight, complements the extensive experience of the other nominees for management change,” Mr. Ackman said. “Together, these nominees will refresh Canadian Pacific's board, adding energy, talent, and experience that will accelerate its turnaround.”
Pershing Square, which has a 14.2-per-cent stake in CP, hired Mr. Harrison as a consultant last fall to help the hedge fund assess investing in the railway.