Saunders: Advice for Rogers on how to relate

bsaunders@newsobserver.comJuly 9, 2012 

When Jim Rogers walks through his dukedom Wednesday, attempting to convince Progress employees that they haven’t been played like chumps by their newly merged company’s sudden and unseemly switch at the top, it is important that he strike just the right note.

Be resolute but sympathetic, conciliatory without groveling, steadfast but –

Aw, forget that: Rogers, the head of Duke Energy, which merged last week with Progress Energy, had better go in there, and especially before that N.C. Utilities Commission hearing on Tuesday, and beg and plead and swear he had nothing to do with any of this. Better yet, fall down on his knees and cry, “They made me take the job.”

If that fails, a favorite tactic of mine is “blame whoever ain’t there.”

That would be Bill Johnson, the former Progress Energy CEO who 18 months ago was tapped to lead the merged companies that will be known as Duke Energy. The reason Johnson isn’t there – depending upon whom you believe – is that he was ousted after 20 minutes at the helm, or he quit.

As I told you in Monday’s column about this stinky mess, though, shed no tears for Johnson: With the $44 million he’s receiving for the shortest-ever stint as HDIC – head dude in charge – he will never have to worry about being able to afford to pay his high light bill. Unlike the rest of us.

A little humility helps

Rogers might consider displaying humility. Whatever he does, he’d better not repeat the public relations fiascoes committed by certain bank presidents or auto industry execs. When they are called onto the carpet every so often by Congress for one transgression or another, some arrive on private jets and wearing expensive threads.

Word to the wise, J.R.: Leave Duke Energy’s corporate jets at home, and ditch those expensive colored shirts with the contrasting white collar and cuffs. They may not go over so well with the hoi polloi or, more importantly, with a utilities commission that’s feeling it has had the wool pulled over its eyes by Duke Energy.

Speaking of organized crime, when renowned fashion plate and mobster Frank Costello went to court on racketeering charges, his attorney wisely told his client to forgo the expensive suits and shirts and dress humbly so the jury could relate to him.

Costello reportedly said, “I’d rather blow the @#$%& case.”

The silver-haired, well-dressed Rogers may not want to wear his Hart Schaffner Marx gray chalk pinstripe or his Myers Park Country Club rep tie.

Raleigh takes it personally

If people in the Triangle didn’t like Charlotte before – don’t look at me like I’m the only one – they certainly won’t like them any more after it stole our only Fortune 500 company and then canned its CEO.

Glenn Burkins, publisher of an online Charlotte magazine called, had these words for the Triangle on Monday: “Y’all need to just get over it and stop all of that whining. The best man won. Now move on.”

Hmmm. Well, here’s one last bit of advice: Even though the employee meeting is at the Marriott, Rogers should get a corner room at the Y. Then, instead of breakfasting on fois gras or duck à l’orange or whatever CEOs who earn $8.8 million a year breakfast on, he should go over to Hardee’s or Biscuitville or Big Ed’s and grab a couple of ham biscuits to munch on while explaining the strange goings on atop Duke Energy.

If he really wants to ingratiate himself to angry employees and an angrier utilities commission, he ought to buy a ham biscuit for everybody.

Saunders: 919-836-2811

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