Duke Energy Director Details 'Friction' During Merger With Progress
UPDATE: At 3:45 Wednesday afternoon the North Carolina Utilities Commission denied Duke Energy's request to delay the testimony of Ann Gray and Michael Browning. They have been ordered to appear Friday as scheduled. Tomorrow the former CEO of Progress Energy, Bill Johnson, is scheduled to tell state regulators his side of the story at a hearing in Raleigh. Johnson was fired as CEO of the newly-merged Duke Energy shortly after the deal was complete. Intriguing details about Johnson's sudden ouster continue to seep out. Long-time Duke Board member Ann Gray submitted her own version of events in a filing to state regulators Tuesday night. She says Duke Energy board members worked to preserve their ability to fire Johnson right from the start of merger negotiations. Progress wanted to require a super-majority vote of the board before Johnson could be terminated. No way, said Duke's directors. But Gray also insists it wasn't until December of last year that Duke's board started having concerns about Johnson. That's when federal regulators surprised the companies by rejecting their initial merger plan. The ensuing effort to create a back-up plan revealed growing friction between Duke and Progress executives, says Gray. To make matters worse, Duke Energy officials felt they had been lied to about the full extent of problems at Progress Energy's troubled nuclear plant in Florida. Last week, Duke CEO Jim Rogers called Johnson's leadership style "autocratic" during a lengthy grilling by utilities commissioners. Now it's Johnson's turn to fire back. Two other Progress Energy directors are supposed to testify as well. On Friday, Gray and another long-time Duke director have been summoned, but Duke is urging the commission to delay that testimony.