Despite yammering in the railfan community, this is probably not good or bad news, except that changes in management are always disruptive. Don Phillips at Trains is reporting that the issue between the Board and the former CEO concerns a technical point of debt restructuring. One must think it is slightly more than that, but the general direction of the company is not part of what happened, or so it seems.
Here is the company line.
WASHINGTON – The National Railroad Passenger Corporation today announced the resignation of its President and CEO, Alex Kummant.
“On behalf of the entire Board, I’d like to thank Alex for his leadership over the past two years,” said Donna McLean, Chair of the Board. “During the past two years, the company experienced exciting economic times, strong ridership and revenue growth, solid profit and loss performance, and the advancement of the Amtrak brand overall. He also successfully oversaw the completion of labor agreements with all of the unions representing Amtrak’s employees. We are grateful to Alex for his contributions to the company. We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Alex Kummant reflected that he was “proud of what the management team at Amtrak had accomplished over the last two plus years and that [he believed] Amtrak had a strong operational and financial base to get through the coming turbulent times.” He continued that he “would help in any way to make this a smooth transition.”
“I’d like to thank Alex for his commitment to Amtrak over the past two years,” said Hunter Biden, Vice Chair of the Board. “Our Board is committed to keeping Amtrak on an aggressive path of performance improvement. Current economic conditions highlight the need for us to continue finding ways to drive quality and customer service across the system. We are moving forward with the development of an aggressive long-term plan for the company, based on the recent legislation passed by Congress.”
After record ridership and revenue in FY08, a downturn in the economy and new legislative requirements present challenges as well as opportunities. In the coming years, Amtrak will need leadership to maximize its potential and utility to the traveling public, while increasing the efficiency of the whole operation. The Board is confident that this transition will be seamless, with William Crosbie, Amtrak’s Chief Operating Officer, as Acting President and CEO for an interim period.
UPDATE: Bloomberg expands on some of the political consequences.
Kummant’s departure will give President-elect Barack Obama an opportunity to put his stamp on the railroad. The Bush administration, which appointed Kummant, sought to cut federal subsidies and force Amtrak to operate more like a business.
Former Amtrak board member Michael Dukakis and some analysts have said Amtrak will benefit from the Obama presidency because it will be more supportive of passenger rail than the outgoing administration.
UPDATE 2: It has been noted in several sources that the Amtrak Board of Directors appoints the president and these are all Bush appointees. It is also reported that the Obama administration will get to appoint a member in 2011. Perhaps some better informed person can help me on this weekend day. Are there vacancies on the Board currently?
Also, to return to a previous theme, my journalistic sense tells me that there is something important happening behind the scenes (and it does not have anything whatever to do with restoring the Sunset east of New Orleans). There is a severe financial disagreement of some sort, in my opinion. I guess this puts me crosswise with Don Phillips, and Mr. Phillips is seldom wrong.