Chris Aadnesen is retiring as Executive Chairman of the Georgetown Rail Equipment Company (GREX) board of directors, following a long and distinguished railroad industry career, 15 of them with GREX.
Aadnesen joined the GREX board in 2003, served as Chairman from 2007-2010, Vice Chairman from 2010-2013, and was elected Executive Chairman in 2013. His career in the rail industry spanned more than four decades, and it literally encompassed the globe. Aadnesen’s previous leadership roles included CEO of Alaska Railroad Corp., Vice President of National Freight Rail Services for HNTB, CEO of Estonian Railways, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Transportación Ferroviaria Méxicana (TFM, now Kansas City Southern de México, or KCSM), President of Texas Mexican Railway Co., and Senior Assistant Vice President Transportation for Union Pacific.
“Chris’s experience in the railroad industry is extensive, so having him as a close advisor helped our business tremendously,” said Greg Grissom, GREX President. “He offered a wealth of knowledge as we expanded our product line and GREX grew into a big player in maintenance-of-way. We’ll miss his day-to-day involvement, and we wish him all the best in retirement.”
Aadnesen is widely credited with shaping KCSM into what it is today. He led a group of senior rail industry executives who performed the due diligence work for Kansas City Southern in Mexico in the mid-1990s, when FNM (Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México) was undergoing privatization. KCS, with partner TMM (Transportación Maritima Mexicana) ultimately and successfully bid on the national system’s “crown jewel,” the 2,261-mile Northeast Railroad concession, comprised of the Nuevo Laredo (at the U.S. border)-Mexico City main trunk, with connecting lines to ports at Lazaro Cardenas, Veracruz and Tampico, and running through important industrial centers in Monterrey and San Luis Potosi.
The Northeast Railroad was the most sought-after portion of the FNM concessions, and was bid on by many major companies, among them Union Pacific. This portion carried 46% of all rail freight traffic in Mexico and 60% of all freight coming from the U.S. In 1997, KCS and TMM bid $1.4 billion, winning the rights to operate the concession, paying 49% and 51%, respectively. In 2005, Kansas City Southern Industries purchased TMM’s share in TFM, giving it full ownership of the company. TFM was officially renamed Kansas City Southern de México, S.A. de C.V.
“Critics at the time said that KCS had paid too much for the Northeast Railroad,” recalls Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono. “But then-CEO Mike Haverty, Chris Aadnesen and all the others who did the work and lined up the investors proved them wrong. And it was Chris who led the team of U.S. and Mexican railroaders who modernized the system, bringing it up to North American standards, beginning the process of growing the business and attracting traffic back to the railroad. The success speaks for itself.”