Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.

Freedom 65: Daniel Departs Enbridge Before Delivering Touchdown Dance

|Includes:Enbridge Inc. (ENB)

Calgary-based pipeline company, Enbridge Inc., will soldier on with Northern Gateway plans without CEO Patrick Daniel who announced his retirement before the end of the year, and more than likely before seeing major pipeline completed.

SOURCE: - Retirements can come in all forms. Some are celebrated as a tribute to a hallmarked career, while others can seem forced or premature. For long-time president and CEO of Enbridge Inc. (TSX: ENB) (NYSE: ENB), Patrick Daniel, 65, the announcement of his retirement before the end of the year is sending shockwaves, considering how close his company is to embarking one of the most controversial and important pipeline constructions in Canada's history. Seeing the respected Daniel get this close to his goal, only to get beat by the clock is nearly as disappointing as when Detroit Lions' star running back, Barry Sanders, shocked the sporting world by announcing his retirement in 1999, just 1,200 yards short of the all-time NFL rushing record.

What do the two have in common? First off, Daniel didn't give much indication that he was winding his career down, in fact dismissing questions regarding his retirement as early as six months ago. Sanders was still in his running prime, within 1,500 yards of eclipsing the great Walter Payton, but slipped out of the league quietly and unexpectedly by announcing his retirement to his hometown newspaper in Wichita. Like Sanders, Daniel is so close to achieving greatness, that those following Enbridge's pipeline proceedings are understandably hurt not to see Daniel carrying the ball over the goal line one last time when the pipeline officially ties the oil sands to the sea. Instead, Daniel is handing the ball off to Al Monaco, 52, to finish this drive and get the glory.

The timing of the retirement announcement, coupled with the recent appointments of Monaco, Janet Holder, 54, as executive vice-president for Western access, and Karen Radford, 43, as executive vice president of people and partners, shows that the Enbridge team is in a rebuilding era, with new faces presiding over the company's key responsibilities at a time of unprecedented industry change and upheaval.

To be fair, there was a lot of pressure on the sidelines at Enbridge, with the weighty task of attempting to deliver the proposed $5.5-billion Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline from Alberta to the West Coast. Pressure is coming from all sides, whether it's coming from Enbridge's shareholders, or the well-funded green opposition that's fighting each step of the way. Even with the unbridled support of the Federal government, the pipeline is far from a slam dunk (oops, wrong sport). But the fact of the matter is, this is probably the most intense time that a management team could face. With the Feds, shareholders and even China cheering on the sidelines, Enbridge is inside the red zone, and the two-minute warning has already passed.

Whether Monaco is ready for the handoff is yet to be seen. While some thought that Stephen Wuori would be the successor, Monaco has been tied to the inside of Enbridge's inner workings since 1995. He's held senior management roles, as well as leadership of the gas transportation, gas distribution and green energy businesses and helped establish Enbridge's major projects division. Monaco has been responsible for designing and constructing major energy infrastructure projects, a category of which the Northern Gateway unquestionable falls under.

Sanders went into the NFL Hall of Fame as a first ballot vote. Daniel has his own accolades for Monaco to live up to, including being named last fall as Caldwell Partners' Outstanding CEO of the Year for 2011. Enbridge shares grew 250% under Daniel's tutelage, and grew in market value from $30.1-billion from $6.8-billion. The growth wasn't perfect, as Daniel leaves the industry with the successes of Enbridge's growth, but also the sludge of Enbridge's 2010 pipeline rupture that spilled more than 20,000 barrels of oil into a Michigan river system on his hands.

Daniel's reasoning behind the timing was addressed in his statement yesterday, where he said he felt Enbridge now has the strongest long-range plan and future growth opportunities, leaving an optimal time to depart. Now the ball is officially in Monaco's hands, and what he does with it will be an important moment in further development of Canada's oil and gas infrastructure, and ultimately how we trade with the world going forward. That's actually a lot more pressure than any football player can be expected to handle. Let's see how this plays out.

G. Joel Chury

Editor in Chief

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Stocks: ENB