CPKC CEO Keith Creel earned total compensation of $20 million in 2023

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Canadian Pacific Kansas City Ltd.’s top five executives each received more than $10 million in total compensation last year, with chief executive Keith Creel receiving $20 million — a figure likely to place him among the highest-paid executives in Canada.

Creel earned a base annual salary of $1.8 million before share-based and option-based awards, CPKC’s annual incentive plan, pension values and all other compensation.

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Meanwhile, the Calgary-based railway’s chief financial officer, Nadeem Velani, received $11.9 million in total compensation — a significant bump from 2022 when he earned $4.7 million. Similarly, chief marketing officer John Brooks, chief operating officer Mark Redd and chief transformation officer John Orr all crossed the $10-million threshold.

The numbers were included in CPKC’s 2024 management proxy circular, published Thursday ahead of the company’s April annual meeting.

The figures reflect executive pay increases across the board, largely due to increases in share-based awards and boosts to CPKC’s annual incentive plan. Executives, with the exception of Creel, typically earn about $1.5 million annually in share-based awards. Last year, those four executives earned between $6 million and $7 million from those awards.

That’s largely due to the merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern sealed last April, said Arden Dalik, senior partner at Global Governance Advisors.

“We certainly see a fairly regular practice of doing special awards like this that are specifically focused on doing those mergers or finishing the project,” Dalik said.

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Creel’s annual pay means he earns 159 times that of the average CPKC employee, according to the company report.

It wouldn’t be the first time Creel has led his peers in terms of compensation. Creel was Calgary’s highest-earning executive in 2021, when he collected more than $26.7 million in salary, shares and incentives.

CPKC has several strong governance principles related to executive compensation, Dalik said, such as a requirement that the CEO own shares worth more than seven times their annual salary. That means Creel would be required to hold more than $12 million in CPKC shares. “That is definitely skin in the game,” Dalik said.

Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern officially merged on April 14 last year to create CPKC, making it the only single-line rail network connecting Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Creel’s earnings for 2023 will once again make him one of Canada’s highest-paid CEOs. The last time executive compensation data was collected, Creel was the highest-paid CEO in Calgary, in front of former Enbridge CEO Al Monaco ($19 million), according to Postmedia’s annual survey of executive compensation at Calgary’s top 11 publicly traded companies, compiled by Global Governance Advisors.

“I think he’ll be right at the top,” Dalik said.

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