Chairman, president, and chief executive officer, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation
Born: 1960, in Salina, Kansas.
Education: University of Missouri, BS, 1981.
Family: Married (wife's name unknown); children: three.
Career: Burlington Northern Railroad, 1994–1995, vice president, vehicles and machinery; Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, 1995–1996, vice president, chemicals; 1996–1997, senior vice president, merchandise business unit; 1997–1999, chief operations officer; 1999–2000, president and chief operating officer; 2000–2002, president and chief executive officer; 2002–, chairman, president, and chief executive officer.
Address: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, 2650 Lou Menk Drive, 2nd Floor, Fort Worth, Texas 76161-0057; http://www.bnsf.com.
■ Matthew K. Rose became the first member of the babyboom generation to head a major North American railroad when he was named the CEO of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (BNSF) in 2000. He brought a new attitude to the staid industry, which had been notorious for its lack of younger members in top management. Having spent part of his career in marketing, Rose also came to his job with a focus on customer service, an outlook that for some time had been sorely lacking in an industry with a reputation for unreliability. Rose's experience in the trucking industry also helped him to transform BNSF. As a leader, he was optimistic, open, and supportive, but also decisive and tough-minded.
Rose was born in 1960 in Salina, Kansas. He went to college at the University of Missouri, and during the summer he worked as a brakeman and switchman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He graduated in 1981 with a BS degree in marketing and a minor in logistics and went to work as a management trainee with Missouri Pacific. After reaching the position of assistant trainmaster, he left the railroad industry to work for the trucking conglomerate International Utilities and the largest truckload carrier in the United States, Schneider National. His next stop was Triple Crown Services, a truck and rail intermodal service, where he became vice president of transportation. In 1993 he joined Burlington Northern Railroad and in June 1994 was appointed vice president of vehicles and machinery.
Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway merged in September 1995, forming Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation. After the merger Rose became vice president of chemicals, a position he held until May 1996, when he was promoted to senior vice president of the merchandise business unit. His quick rise through the management ranks of BNSF continued in August of the following year with his promotion to senior vice president and chief operations officer. He was now in charge of coordinating transportation, maintenance, quality, purchasing, labor relations, and information services. In June 1999 Rose was named president and chief operating officer, with the clear understanding that he was now being groomed to succeed BNSF's chief executive officer, Robert D. Krebs.
Krebs was the longest-serving railroad chief executive at the time, having started out in 1981 as the president of Southern Pacific Transportation Company and then moving to Santa Fe Southern Pacific Corporation, which became part of the 1995 Burlington-Santa Fe merger. Krebs maintained that finding a successor who could command the confidence of both management and the board was one of the most important responsibilities in his career. He settled on Rose because of his varied experience in marketing and operations, in both the rail and trucking industries. While preparing for the top spot, Rose also demonstrated the further advantage of having grown up as part of the computer generation. He played the lead role in the establishment of Freight Wise, an online transportation exchange in which BNSF owned a majority interest.
Rose became the CEO at BNSF in December 2000, with Krebs retaining the chairmanship. Krebs had nothing but high praise for his 41-year-old protégé. He told the Journal of Commerce , "He is tough-minded, but he is an optimist. He is decisive, yet thorough. He is open and supportive…. People want to work for Matt" (December 8, 2000). Although people in the railroad industry acknowledged that losing Krebs was upsetting, Rose's appointment was received positively. The need for younger leadership in railroads was obvious, and Rose was expected to become the most progressive chief executive in the industry. For many, he represented a symbol of change.
Rose took over a railroad that operated on 35,500 route miles of track in 28 western states and two Canadian provinces and generated more than $9 billion in annual revenues, second in size only to Union Pacific. The hard-driving Krebs had done a good job in cutting costs, which allowed BNSF to survive and start to invest in capital improvements, leaving Rose with different priorities, which included growing revenues to meet rail's ferocious appetite for capital, investing in new facilities, and acquiring more efficient locomotives and freight cars. To accomplish these goals, he had to win back market share from truckers as well as forge partnerships between trucking and rail. One tool he hoped to utilize more was the Internet, putting to use some of the techniques used by airlines to better match supply and demand for rail service as a way to maximize revenue.
Rose also began working with major retailers to encourage them to make increased use of railroads to transport goods. But perhaps the most important and challenging task he faced was changing the mindset of the workforce, keeping it aware of financial matters but also looking to better serve customers. After years of hearing promises about customer service, most shippers—with the exception of giant accounts—had grown disenchanted with the railroads, which had been notoriously unreliable for so many years that it was a tall order to restore confidence. Without this trust, BNSF and the rest of the industry would be unable to grow revenues.
Making his job more difficult, Rose took over during difficult economic conditions and reduced rail traffic. To stimulate business BNSF resorted to money-back guarantees on 10 service corridors and offered some discounts on intermodal services. Despite these challenges, Rose remained characteristically optimistic, expressing his belief that without railroads the United States would experience a strain on the nation's highway infrastructure and an untenable level of congestion in metropolitan areas. "That's why," he told the Dallas Morning News , "I believe we have a bright future" (December 8, 2000). The transition of power at BNSF was completed in April 2002, when Krebs retired and Rose was named chairman in addition to his roles as president and CEO.
See also entry on Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation in International Directory of Company Histories .
Hooper, Michael, "Railroad on Right Track," Topeka Capital-Journal , April 14, 2004.
Kaufman, Lawrence H., "Rose Succeeds Krebs as BNSF's Chief Executive," Journal of Commerce , December 8, 2000.
Machalaba, Daniel, "Burlington Northern Names Rose CEO," Wall Street Journal , December 8, 2000.
Shah, Angela, "New Chief Takes Over at Burlington Northern Santa Fe," Dallas Morning News , December 8, 2000.
Siekman, Philip, "New Hope for Trucks and Trains," Fortune , December 11, 2001.