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Enbridge CEO Al Monaco to retire after 27 years at pipeline company

Key Speakers At IHS CERAWeek 2015 Energy Conference
Key Speakers At IHS CERAWeek 2015 Energy Conference

Enbridge Inc. chief executive Al Monaco said the time is right for a change in leadership at Canada’s largest pipeline company after announcing Monday that he would be retiring on Jan. 1

In an interview, Monaco said he believes the CEOs of large public companies in the energy sector typically have a seven to 10-year runway to accomplish what they set out to do.

“I’m in my 11th year, actually, as CEO. So I think the timing just makes sense from that perspective,” he said.

“Company-wise and team-wise, I think they’re in great shape to move forward. I think the key priorities that we’ve been focusing on are being ticked off and the strategy is sound in terms of how we invest capital, and I think there’s going to be good continuity going forward.”

The oilpatch stalwart has been at the Calgary-based pipeline company for 27 years, serving as chief executive since 2012. The current chair of the company’s board of directors, Greg Ebel, will succeed Monaco as CEO.

Monaco led Enbridge during a tumultuous but highly profitable decade that saw the pipeline company’s share price outperform its peers and an annual dividend growth rate of around 13 per cent.

He also navigated a protracted downturn in oil prices and a bruising battle with regulators and the federal government over the rejected Northern Gateway pipeline. Monaco, however, succeeded in shepherding the long-delayed Line 3 replacement project, which began operating one year ago, and has prevailed in multiple clashes with authorities in the United States over Enbridge’s cross-border Line 5 pipeline.

Recently, the company also struck a deal to sell a $1.12-billion minority stake in seven Alberta oil pipelines to 23 First Nations and Métis communities in the Athabasca region of northern Alberta — the largest deal of its kind in North America to date and a transaction that Monaco said should be a “model for the future” for other companies.

“The ultimate is when you can have full alignment with Indigenous groups on economic development,” Monaco said.

Monaco also said he feels Enbridge under his tenure did a good job of standing up for the energy industry, even as various pipeline projects have become a flashpoint for critics.

“We need to be an advocate for what we do. And it’s not just about advocacy, it’s about making sure people understand the role that we play,” he said.

In a statement Monday, Monaco’s successor praised him for expanding the company’s liquids pipeline business into the U.S. Gulf Coast — including a $37-billion mega-merger with Spectra Energy Crop. — and for building out the company’s crude oil and liquified natural gas export capabilities.

Monaco also accelerated the shift in Enbridge’s energy asset mix, from virtually zero natural gas assets in the mid-1990s to 40 per cent natural gas transmission and distribution in 2022. Renewables also now account for around five per cent of the business.

“Al’s unparalleled leadership, discipline and integrity has ensured that the company is incredibly well-positioned to remain a critical component of North America’s energy fabric, and to grow, for decades to come,” Ebel said. “His relentless focus on Enbridge’s safety performance, emissions reduction, Indigenous engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusion and fostering the company’s talent will provide an enduring foundation for the future.”

To support the new CEO through the transition, Monaco will serve as an adviser through March 1, the company said in a statement.

Ebel, who was chief executive of Houston-based Spectra Energy prior to the merger in 2017, has served as chair of Enbridge’s board of directors ever since.

Royal Bank of Canada analyst Robert Kwan said investors may be looking to the company to provide more detail about the timing of Monaco’s departure during the upcoming third quarter conference call or at the annual investor day event later this year.

“We believe the market will be surprised by the timing of Al Monaco’s decision to retire as well as Greg Ebel moving back into the C-suite,” Kwan said in a research note Monday. “That being said, Greg is very well-versed in Enbridge’s strategy and business operations”

Kwan said the lengthy transition period did not suggest there was a specific trigger behind the timing of the announcement.

“However, we believe the market will be looking for additional colour on the nature of the transition and what it means for the broader executive team at Enbridge,” he added.

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