Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

Cost of Duke Energy's merger deception keeps rising

More than 1,000 former Progress Energy employees piled into Raleigh's downtown Marriott on Wednesday as their "new" boss — Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers — tried over the next two and a half hours to regain their trust.

Progress workers remain upset and skeptical after Rogers testified under oath for four hours Tuesday to North Carolina regulators and repeatedly trashed their former chief executive, Bill Johnson. Defending Duke's actions in buying Progress Energy, Rogers said Johnson came across as so "autocratic" that Duke's board of directors lost confidence in his ability to meld the two companies into one. The board ousted Johnson as the new CEO on the same day the companies merged and named Rogers CEO instead.

Why should Floridians care about such Carolina intrigue?

• Because Duke now controls Progress Energy Florida. We need to understand who Duke is in the wake of clearly questionable actions taken during this merger.

• Because after absorbing Progress Energy, Duke is now the nation's biggest electric utility. And we all know from experience that behemoth monopolies never act with impunity, never become bureaucratic bullies and never lose touch with customers.

• Because a key reason for ousting Johnson, says Rogers, is Progress Energy's poor handling of the Crystal River nuclear plant north of Tampa Bay, which has been shuttered since 2009.

• And because Duke says higher electricity rates are coming, even though Progress Energy Florida customers already pay 25 percent more for electricity than Floridians south of Tampa Bay whose power is provided by Florida Power & Light.

Already one Wall Street analyst suggests Duke Energy's merger shenanigans may cost the company dearly. Analyst Hugh Wynne of Sanford C. Bernstein expects Duke will be fined by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and faces a possible fine from the North Carolina attorney general and pricey severance payments owed to at least three Progress executives leaving Duke in response to Johnson's exit. Wynne also sees "unfavorable treatment" in upcoming rate reviews by regulators soured by Duke's tactics as well as costs to defend shareholder lawsuits spawned by Duke's unorthodox behavior.

After Wednesday's Marriott meeting with Rogers, most Progress employees declined to speak to reporters out of fear for their jobs. One Progress Energy executive who did comment is Jeff Lyash, who used to serve as CEO of Progress Energy Florida in St. Petersburg before being promoted to North Carolina. He acknowledged the skepticism in the Marriott meeting to a reporter with Raleigh's News & Observer newspaper.

Lyash recently ran Progress Energy's nuclear business. Now he'll stay on at Duke in a similar role with an executive vice president title. His remarks reflect a pragmatic style, a good-soldier sense of duty and presumably the seven-figure compensation package he will still receive.

"I have great optimism for this company," he told the Raleigh newspaper. "There is a great opportunity for this company to set the industry standard."

Exactly what standard he means remains to be seen. Setting a higher ethics standard at Duke is a good start.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

Comments
Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

TAMPA — The world’s biggest hotel company already has 29 properties in the Tampa Bay area, but its CEO says a plan to put more than 1,400 rooms in three Marriott-branded hotels within a few blocks of each other says something about how Tampa is evolv...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

WASHINGTON — The company formerly known as Yahoo is paying a $35 million fine to resolve federal regulators’ charges that the online pioneer deceived investors by failing to disclose one of the biggest data breaches in internet history. The Securiti...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

"Stay thirsty, my friends," the most interesting man in the world is coming to Tampa to tend bar on Friday. Jonathan Goldsmith, the face that launched a thousand memes, will be slinging cocktails at Tampa’s trendy Hall on Franklin, the food hall anno...
Updated: 2 hours ago
So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

NEW PORT RICHEY – The typical tourist in Pasco County this year most likely is a Floridian.But there are lots of Canadians here as well. Nearly 80 percent drove, rather than flew, to the region. Forty percent stayed in hotels, but more than a quarter...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

NEW PORT RICHEY – Hockey pucks could replace lacrosse balls as the required sports equipment for the holiday tourism season in Wesley Chapel.The Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, founded by Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, is seek...
Updated: 4 hours ago
St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

St. Pete Pier public arts committee to meet with finalists, make decision

ST. PETERSBURG — The pier public arts committee is expected to decide today which artist or artists will have their work showcased in the new 26-acre Pier District. The committee, which selected six finalists with the help of consultant Ann Wykell, w...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Disney World hiring 3,500, offers signing bonuses up to $5,000

Disney World hiring 3,500, offers signing bonuses up to $5,000

ORLANDO — In an ever-tightening job market, Disney World is doubling its hiring bonuses for some summer jobs, even for unskilled or part-time positions — as it seeks to hire for 3,500 positions.A housekeeper hired this year at Disney World’s resorts ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Amazon will now deliver to certain cars across Tampa Bay

Amazon will now deliver to certain cars across Tampa Bay

SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon latest perk ... free delivery to your car. The Seattle company said Tuesday that it has begun delivering packages in 37 cities — including Tampa and St. Petersburg — to Prime members who own newer General Motors or Volvo vehicl...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Hernando Chamber boosts small business with videos

Hernando Chamber boosts small business with videos

SPRING HILL — Jaden Trotter claims he was basically shy. When a new sandwich shop opened a year and a half ago, he applied for work as a delivery driver, a job not requiring a lot of people skills.But Ryan Noruzi, owner of the local Jimmy Johns franc...
Published: 04/24/18
Armed Forces History Museum collection has a new home, but new owner is a mystery

Armed Forces History Museum collection has a new home, but new owner is a mystery

LARGO — The contents of the Armed Forces History Museum have been sold, but no one is ready to talk about the future of the collection of military memorabilia.A collector named John Piazza used his personal collection to start the public museum, whic...
Published: 04/24/18