Updated 07/10/2012 09:43 PM
Duke CEO testifies board had doubts about Johnson's leadership
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RALEIGH -- Tuesday, Duke Energy's top executive answered questions from state regulators about an abrupt change in leadership. The shift came just hours after Duke and Progress Energy finalized the multi-billion dollar merger last week that put Jim Rogers in charge.
In his testimony, Rogers said his departure was so certain, the Duke board gave him a retirement gift last December.
But, that all changed in June.
Rogers told the NC Utilities Commission that on June 23 Duke directors said they had "preliminary view" Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson wasn't the "best person to lead the combined company."
He went on to say that Duke directors lost confidence in Johnson's ability. "They felt his style was autocratic," said Rogers.
Johnson was expected to lead the combined company, but abruptly resigned hours after the deal was complete. Rogers from Charlotte-based Duke Energy was left to head the company as CEO. Duke had refused to explain the last-minute decision to reverse plans for Johnson to head the expanded company.
"The decision was not made until it was made," said Rogers.
Attorney Wade Smith, who represents Bill Johnson, released a statement during the hearing:
"Bill Johnson has a distinguished record of leadership at Progress Energy and was looking forward to the opportunity to lead the nation's largest utility. The fact that he is held in the highest regard by his peers in the utility industry and in the North Carolina business community speaks volumes about his leadership and business capabilities."
Tuesday's hearing is just the start of the commission's investigation. According to state law, they have the right to reverse the merger. Although, analysts say that's unlikely.
The merger took a year and a half to complete and involved approvals from a long list of agencies.