Dissenters criticize Duke-Progress merger

By Laurie Bennett

July 7, 2012 at 2:01pm

A power shift at Duke Energy, following the company’s acquisition of Progress Energy, is getting some pushback.

Hours after the merger, CEO Bill Johnson stepped down, creating an opening for former Duke CEO James Rogers to move back into the top spot.

Duke sent out a press release, saying Johnson had resigned “by mutual agreement.”

Yet the Wall Street Journal ran a letter from a former director of Progress, John Mullin, who called the coup “an incredible act of bad faith.”

Mullin said leadership was a crucial component in merger negotiations. “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 the CEO of the combined company,” he wrote.

Standard & Poor’s has put Duke on a watch list because of the change in leadership. The North Carolina Utilities Commission, which approved the deal last week, said Friday that it was launching investigations into the surprise move.

The Journal has described the overthrow as “latest bit of maneuvering” by Rogers.

Johnson, however, is in line to enjoy retirement with a severance package of more than $44 million.

ThinkProgress notes that the payout comes to $5.5 million per hour, assuming Johnson worked eight hours in his only day on the job.

As the Muckety map above shows, all of the previous members of the Duke board remain, with the addition of five former directors from Progress.

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