July 19, 2012, 3:30 pm
8:35 p.m. | Updated
RALEIGH, N.C. - Duke Energy tried to back out of a deal to buy Progress Energy as it faced increasing regulatory hurdles, the combined company's ousted chief said in a testimony on Thursday.
At a hearing before North Carolina's utilities commission, the former executive, William D. Johnson, indicated that the relationship between the companies soured as a result, dooming his tenure as chief of the newly merged utility.
"They wanted the merger. Then they didn't. Then they couldn't get out of it, and they didn't want to be stuck with me, as the person who dragged them into it," Mr. Johnson said.
He is the latest person to testify about the boardroom coup at Duke.
When the deal was struck in January 2011, Mr. Johnson, then the chief executive of Progress, was slated to become to head of the newly combined company. James E. Rogers, then the C.E.O. of Duke, would step into the role of executive chairman. But just hours after the $32 billion merger closed this July, the board fired Mr. Johnson and put Mr. Rogers in charge.
The board's actions have ignited fierce criticism that the company misled regulators. Officials in North Carolina are now looking for answers, providing a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the boardroom.
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