Progress Energy Names New CEO, Chairman

Chief Operating Officer Bill Johnson was named as the replacement for former chairman and CEO Bob McGehee, who died Tuesday after suffering a stroke.

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Bill Johnson
RALEIGH, N.C. — Bill Johnson, interim chief executive at Progress Energy, can remove interim from the title.

The Progress Energy board of directors on Friday selected Johnson to replace former chairman and CEO Bob McGehee, who died on Tuesday after suffering a stroke while on company business in London.

The board also named Johnson, 53, as the company’s chairman.

Johnson, who was the Raleigh-based utility's president and chief operating officer, was named interim CEO by the board on Monday, after McGehee was left incapacitated by the weekend stroke.

A former lawyer, Johnson has worked with Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN ) since 1992 in several different roles. He was a partner in the Hunton & Williams law firm in Raleigh before joining the utility, which at that time was known as Carolina Power & Light. Johnson focused on representation of utilities companies.

Johnson received his law degree from the University of North Carolina law school in 1982. He earned a degree in history and graduated summa cum laude from Duke University. He also attended Penn State, where he played football, but did not earn a degree.

“We are saddened to have to take this action today, but we are heartened that Bill Johnson stands ready to provide continuity in leadership for the company,” said John Mullin III, the board’s lead director who was serving as acting chairman. “Bill has earned the confidence of the board and employees. He is ready to lead the company as it continues its focus on operational excellence and customer service. It is a tribute to Bob McGehee’s leadership that the company has a talented management team in place, an effective succession plan and a capable leader in Bill Johnson.”

Johnson was elected unanimously by the board at a meeting on Friday morning, the company said in a statement. A succession plan had been put in place by the board in September because McGehee had been expected to retire early next year.

Johnson’s former COO position will not be filled, the company said.

“Progress Energy lost an outstanding leader and a dear friend in Bob McGehee,” Johnson said in a statement. “Although I am thankful for this opportunity to serve, I accept it with a heavy heart. I feel fortunate to work with the strong management team that Bob assembled. Inspired by the dedication of the men and women of this great company, I will work every day to build on Bob’s legacy of excellence and the positive momentum his leadership created.”

Progress Energy is a Fortune 500 company with more than $10 billion in annual revenues and more than 3 million customers.

Initially, Wall Street reacted positively to the news. The company's stock traded up 20 cents, at $47.39, in late-morning trading. The stock ended up losing 15 cents overall to close at $47.04.