Local News

Progress Energy CEO McGehee Dies

Posted October 9, 2007

— Robert McGehee, 64, chairman and chief executive officer of Progress Energy, died early Tuesday of a stroke, the company said.

McGehee suffered the stroke in London on Sunday. He was in the United Kingdom on business, planning to meet with investors on Tuesday.

The news stunned Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN) where he had been CEO since March 2004 and chairman since May 2004. He joined the company in 1997.

“Bob was an avid exerciser and in very good shape,” company spokesman Mike Hughes said. “He often ran and walked.”

McGehee was apparently on a walk by himself when the stroke occurred, Hughes said.

He underwent surgery Sunday at Charing Cross Hospital but did not regain consciousness, the company said in a statement.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker called McGehee "a quiet, thoughtful leader who applied his intelligence and insight to strengthening Progress Energy."

"He cared very much about the development of downtown, that' we'd really have the economic strength there. He was most interested in the cultural side," Meeker said.

McGehee was instrumental in building a new headquarters building for Progress Energy downtown and for the company's $5.6 million sponsorship of the Performing Arts Center.

Meeker said he would sit down with McGehee at quarterly meetings to discuss downtown's renaissance.

"He would talk about how much he enjoyed the improved Fayetteville Street, that that was just a complete turnaround from where it had been a couple years ago," the mayor said.

"He's given back so much to North Carolina, especially the Triangle," Gov. Mike Easley said. "He'll be known as a gentleman who did things the right way and still made it to the top and was loved the whole time. That's a pretty good legacy."

William Johnson, Progress Energy's president and chief operating officer, assumed McGehee’s responsibilities on Monday.

John Mullin, a member of the board of directors, was named acting chairman. Mullin, chairman of Ridgeway Farm, a farming and timber management firm, has been a member of the board since 1999.

McGehee graduated from the Naval Academy in 1966 and served as a nuclear engineer aboard a ballistic missile submarine. He later earned a law degree at the University of Texas.

He joined Carolina Power & Light, Progress Energy's predecessor company, as senior vice president and general counsel. He was chairman of the board of a law firm in Jackson, Miss., before joining CP&L.

"Bob McGehee's life and his tenure as our company's CEO and chairman have been cut painfully short, but the list of his contributions to Progress Energy, its customers, employees and shareholders was long and outstanding," Mullin said in a statement. "Bob was a rare person who combined vision and strength of character with a humble and generous spirit. Under Bob's leadership, the company has shaped a new strategic direction, while maintaining its tradition of operational excellence. We are all deeply saddened by his loss but are committed to sustaining the positive momentum that Bob created."

McGehee had been expected to retire next spring, and company recently reviewed and approved a succession plan, Progress Energy said in a statement. The board will meet on Friday to implement the succession plan.

McGehee is survived by his wife, Jolene; his father; one brother; four children; and two grandchildren.

Hughes said McGehee would be remembered as someone who took care of the little things as well as the big picture.

"One of the first handwritten letters that I received when I returned from my father's funeral was from Bob," Hughes said. "(He was) a genuinely decent, generous man, a true Southern gentleman. (He will be) sorely, sorely missed."


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  • common_sense_plz Oct 10, 2007

    I am sorry for the family of this gentleman, but now maybe the city of Raleigh can move on and make decisions on their on without this man. We all know who ran the city and it was not any elected official, it was this man who unfortunantly passed away.

  • niceyetnaughty Oct 10, 2007

    alady wrote: "And he was just what Progress needed after the Cavanaugh reign. And his wife is an absolute sweetheart! My prayers are with them."

    How sad that you would use this opportunity to take a shot at another human being during this family's time of grieving.

    My thoughts and condolences are with the McGehee family.

  • carlostheass Oct 10, 2007

    I never knew him, but any loss of this type is a sad one. I am praying for his friends, family members, and his extended family at Progress Energy and in the community.

  • Made In USA Oct 9, 2007

    I am deeply saddened for the family due to their loss. Losing a loved one unexpectedly is one of the hardest things to cope with in this life. May the Lord look out for his family, with support from friends, from each other, and may He give them comfort within to accept the things we cannot change.

  • jetset Oct 9, 2007

    So sad to hear of someone dying, especially when they were so far from home, family and friends. My sincere condolences to his family. He had a nice smile.

  • BottomLine Oct 9, 2007

    Thoughts and prayers to the family.

  • .Milky Oct 9, 2007

    Gone but not forgotten.

  • momof2 Oct 9, 2007

    My thoughts and prayers for the McGeHee family and the Progress Energy family.

  • alady Oct 9, 2007

    I worked at Progress and had the opportunity to meet Bob before leaving the company. He was a very sincere and kind man. His family has lost an incredible member! And he was just what Progress needed after the Cavanaugh reign.
    And his wife is an absolute sweetheart!
    My prayers are with them.

  • seeingthru Oct 9, 2007

    so sad never take enything for granted, live each day the best tou can