Jim Rogers, Former Duke CEO and Climate Advocate, Dies at 71

(Bloomberg) -- Jim Rogers, a former chief executive officer of Duke Energy Corp. who ended his deal-making days with a bruising battle over control of his company, died Monday in Louisville, Kentucky. He was 71.

Rogers pushed to expand the company through takeovers and espoused a cleaner vision of electricity, despite overseeing one of the nation’s largest fleet of coal-fired power plants. He agreed to step down in 2013 as part of a settlement with regulators probing the company’s $17.8 billion takeover of Progress Energy.

Jim Rogers, Former Duke CEO and Climate Advocate, Dies at 71

“He was not afraid to tackle the hard questions with a personable style that brought people together for positive solutions,” Duke CEO Lynn Good said in a statement Tuesday.

Rogers became CEO of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke in 2006 following its merger with Cinergy Corp. of Cincinnati. He led the 2012 takeover of Progress Energy, creating the largest U.S. electric utility. Terms called for Progress CEO Bill Johnson to head the combined company, but Johnson lasted for less than a day before former Duke board members outvoted their new colleagues and replaced him with Rogers.

The surprise switch spurred lawsuits and state and federal regulatory inquiries. Progress Energy board member John H. Mullin III decried it as "the most blatant example of corporate deceit that I have witnessed," saying that he and his fellow directors would never have voted for a deal that put Rogers in charge.

Duke agreed to pay a $27 million settlement after being sued over the dismissal. Good was named as Rogers’ replacement in 2013.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Rogers spent most of his childhood in Danville, Kentucky. He earned undergraduate and law degrees at University of Kentucky and worked as a reporter at the Lexington Herald-Leader early in his career. Rogers later served as a law clerk for the Supreme Court of Kentucky.

After resigning from Duke, Rogers lectured and wrote "Lighting the World," a 2015 book about the need to develop clean energy in impoverished nations.

Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council climate and clean energy program, said Rogers embraced wind and solar “at a time when many of his utility peers were skeptical at best.”

“Jim will be remembered for all he did to convert America’s electricity sector into an essential clean energy partner,” Cavanagh wrote in a tribute on the organization’s website.

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