CEO of newly acquired SteelRiver rail operator named

John Fenton, who took over Metrolink after a deadly 2008 collision, has been appointed boss of SteelRiver-owned Patriot Rail. Fenton has private sector experience. SteelRiver bought 100% of Patriot Tuesday.

A portfolio company recently purchased by SteelRiver Infrastructure Partners has landed a chief executive credited for stabilising Los Angeles commuter rail service Metrolink in the wake of a deadly train collision in 2008.

John Fenton will head holding company Patriot Rail Corporation, a short line and regional freight railroad operator bought by SteelRiver on Tuesday for an undisclosed sum. SteelRiver senior managing partner Chris Kinney called Patriot Rail “a highly complementary asset to our existing portfolio,” citing the potential to “capitalise on additional consolidation in the short line rail industry”.   

Gary Marino, chairman, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Patriot Rail, will retire, SteelRiver said. Marino founded Patriot Rail in 2006. 

Fenton assumed leadership of Metrolink following what became christened the Chatsworth train collision, a 2008 head-on crash between a Metrolink railway vehicle and a Union Pacific Railroad freight train that killed 25 people and caused $7 billion in damage.

A federal government investigation later blamed a Metrolink engineer for the collision, claiming he ran a stop signal while text messaging on his cellular phone.

Metrolink is the third-largest commuter service in the US, and Fenton, who has private sector experience, helped improve safety protocol as well as improve performance. Prior to Metrolink, Fenton served as operating partner for investment bank CIH Capital Partners and president and CEO of OmniTRAX, a short line railroad in Denver.

SteelRiver revealed Barclays served as its fianncial advisor on the transaction, while Greenberg Traurig provided legal advice.

Based in New York and San Francisco, SteelRiver launched via a spinout from Babcock & Brown, a now defunct financial services concern. The infrastructure fund has $1.9 billion in capital.