Duke CEO ‘Worth Every Penny,’ CFO Says, Rebutting Elliott Claims

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Duke Energy Corp. chief financial officer Steve Young is pushing back against calls from Elliott Investment Management for the utility owner to revamp its leadership.

The New York-based hedge fund criticized Duke’s leadership and shareholder returns in a letter Monday, asserting that the company has rewarded poor management with additional compensation and other perks, notably a $7 million retention payment to chief executive Lynn Good disclosed in 2018.

“She’s worth every penny of it,” Young said in an interview Tuesday. “She’s one of the most outstanding leaders I’ve ever known.”

He also stressed that Duke has consistently refreshed the membership of its 13-member board, with nine new directors added in the past five years. That was aimed at countering Elliot’s criticism that the company lacks effective independent oversight at the board level.

“We’ll continue to entertain ideas and talk with Elliott,” said Young, adding that the company is open to ideas from shareholders and investors. “Thus far, Elliott’s ideas have lacked strategic and financial merit.”

Elliott’s letter came two months after the activist investor took a stake in the utility giant and urged Duke to consider splitting itself into three companies. Duke has rejected the idea of breaking up the company and Young reiterated Tuesday that the costs of such a move would far outweigh any potential advantages.

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