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Robert Trigaux

At 65, will Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers have time to restore trust after Progress Energy merger coup?



jimrogersceodukeapphoto.jpgWake up and good morning. The man who now heads Duke Energy that bought Progress Energy... who participated in a palace coup and deposed would-be CEO Bill Johnson... and who is now scrambling to fix the sloppy mess of a merger he in part helped make... is the subject of a very long and interesting story from Bloomberg News.

That man, of course, is Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers (left, AP photo), who now also happens to be the boss controlling Progress Energy Florida and the chief electricity provider for west central Florida. Here are 5 snippets of the Bloomberg piece, which you can read in full right here. My take? The story offers new insights into the strategy behind Bill Johnson's dumping as CEO and a good look at the impressive spin under way by Duke and Rogers to evolve a very unsatisfactory merger into a tale of, ultimately, doing the right thing. Read on.

5. "Rogers, 65, finds himself at the pinnacle of an extraordinary 24-year career as a utility CEO and at the same time under the cloud of mistrust that, it not dispersed, may taint his legacy and inhibit the post-merger success of the combined Duke."

4. "His detractors describe Rogers as a slippery self-promoter... The executive switch after the takeover 'looks like part of the pattern we've seen from Rogers for a long time: Progress and the utility commission got taken so Rogers could get his merger.'" (Remarks of Jim Warren, executive director of the Durham, N.C. non-profit NC WARN -- North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network -- and longtime observer of Duke Energy.)

billjohnsonprogressnergyap.jpg3. Federal regulators initially rejected the Duke-Progress deal because the proposed company did not offer enough concessions to mitigate the market power it would gain as the country's largest electricity provider. "Just weeks after the reject by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Rogers sat for an interview with the Charlotte Business Journal. Explaining the thin 5 percent premium he had negotiated (the price to buy Progress Energy), Rogers said: 'I effectively gave up the CEO job to pay a lower premium.' ... The converse of Rogers' account, though, implies that Johnson (right, AP photo) and his board sold Progress at a discount so he would get named CEO. That's not how Johnson saw the deal. He thought he got the promotion on his merits, not as a way to sweeten the deal for the other company's investors."

2. "'One of the greatest corporate hijackings in U.S. business history' is what John Mullin, the former Progress director, called it in his letter to the Wall Street Journal. 'I do not believe that a single director of Progress would have voted for this transaction as structured with the knowledge that the CEO of Duke, Jim Rogers, would remain as CEO of the combined company,' he wrote."

1. "As the the company's corporate governance, Rogers says, what might seem to be a CEO-succession fiasco this summer will one day be viewed positively. 'It actually reflects a strong board that made a tough decision,' he said. 'A subset of people think I engineered this,'Rogers said. 'I wish I was that good.'"

-- Robert Trigaux,  Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times




[Last modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 7:21am]


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