Raleigh, N.C. — Jim Rogers, the newly installed chief executive of Duke Energy Progress, told Triangle business leaders Thursday morning that Duke is committed to central and eastern North Carolina and will continue to build on the legacy Progress Energy built during the last 100 years.
The speech, at the Raleigh Marriott City Center, was Rogers' first public appearance in the Triangle since he took control of the new electric utility giant in July.
"Raleigh is central to our future," he said. "It's our state capital, and it's our company's state headquarters. We are committed to Raleigh long term. I couldn't imagine it any other way."
Rogers in July told thousands of Progress Energy employees that he wanted to earn their trust during the difficult transition.
The merger is expected to eliminate an estimated 1,860 jobs, including 700 to 1,000 Progress Energy workers in Raleigh, Duke spokesman Tom Williams said.
About 1,150 of those job losses have already been set through negotiated buyouts, while 300 to 400 are vacant positions, Williams said. The remaining 300 to 400 positions that will be trimmed haven't yet been determined.
Rogers, 65, has been at the center of a firestorm of controversy since the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the Duke Energy Corp. takeover of Raleigh-based Progress Energy Inc. in June.
It started hours after the merger was approved, when Rogers was installed as the new company’s president and CEO instead of Progress Chief Executive Bill Johnson, who was originally slated to take the position after the $35 billion merger.
Rogers said Thursday that he understands the continued frustration over the last-minute change in management.
"The CEO change was a big surprise. I know that and I understand that," he said. "Unquestionably, that's not what we had in mind at the beginning of this journey. The board made a leadership decision that it felt like it needed to make."
As for the numerous Progress leaders who resigned following Johnson's removal, Rogers said that he tried to get them to stay.
"I was sad to see some of those people leave, and I worked hard to get them to stay with the company," he said. "But they each made their own personal decisions for their own reasons."
Duke’s board said Johnson mishandled too many issues leading up to the merger and couldn’t be trusted, but the N.C. Utilities Commission questioned the sudden management shakeup and whether the board had discussed removing Johnson before the deal was even approved. Utilities regulators in August hired Anton Valukas and the Jenner & Block law firm to investigate what happened before the merger was approved.
The commission has the power under state law to rescind or alter its decision.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has launched a separate investigation into the merger, demanding copies of communication between Duke board members and executives. Rogers said Thursday he expects state regulators to make a decision that's best for North Carolina.
"The uncertainty of the deliberations sort of hangs over the company like a dark cloud," he said. "But I have every belief that it will be resolved in a way that benefits the customers and our state in a timely way."
Rogers also addressed concerns over rate increases Thursday morning, saying that Duke will work to mitigate the costs to consumers while trying move the company forward with new technology.
"We're trying to work as hard as we can to minimize the amount of increase," he said. "There are different ways to feather it in. We're tying to keep it at a minimal level."