Duke Energy Chairman Priory to Retire
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Duke Energy Corp. chairman and CEO Richard B. Priory plans to retire early next year, capping a rocky tenure that saw the company’s fortunes roiled by probes into its trading and accounting practices and steep churns of its share price.
Duke’s board on Tuesday selected Paul Anderson, its former president and chief operating officer, to replace Priory. The leadership change is effective Nov. 1.
Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless described Priory’s departure as ``part of a deliberate succession at Duke Energy.″ He said Priory, 57, told the board two years that he wanted a succession plan in place.
``We’ve had a tough time and Rick has been with us to steer the ship in the right direction,″ Wheeless said. ``There are still some challenges ahead, but this company still has a strong base of operations.″
Priory has been in charge as Duke Energy has weathered one of the toughest periods in its nearly 100-year history, with shareholders’ total return off a whopping 48 percent in 2002.
``I am proud that thanks to the diligent work of our employees, the business has established a solid foundation for the future,″ Priory said in a statement. ``The energy marketplace has been tough, but I am confident that Duke Energy has the resources _ hard assets, talented people and a respected history _ to lead the industry forward.″
Duke Energy struggled over the last year along with its rivals, as the U.S. energy industry came under increased scrutiny from regulators and Wall Street. The company’s stock price has fallen xx off its 2001 highs, and Duke has weathered government probes into its energy trading and accounting practices.
The sluggish economy hasn’t helped Duke Energy as it tried to fix some its own problems, ranging from its stock woes to state and federal probes into its energy trading practices.
In recent months, the company continued to shed assets in an effort to reduce debt by $1.8 billion this year. The company also sliced its capital budget this year and its share price has risen.
Anderson served as president and chief operating officer of Duke Energy immediately following the 1997 merger of Duke Power and PanEnergy. He left Duke Energy in 1998 to become managing director and chief executive officer of BHP Limited.
BHP later merged with Billiton PLC to create Australia-based BHP Billiton, the world’s largest diversified natural resources group, which he led as chief executive until his retirement last year.
Anderson said he was optimistic Duke Energy ``will grow and prosper. The energy industry has gone through a crisis of confidence.″
Duke shares rose 10 cents to close at $18 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.