Layoffs, new name ahead for Progress Energy after merger

Name tweak, some layoffs ahead as part of Duke Energy merger

jmurawski@newsobserver.comSeptember 5, 2012 

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Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers

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Duke Energy is on track to finalize the staff of its 29,000-employee organization by next month, following the Charlotte power company’s merger with Raleigh-based Progress Energy.

The newly structured company is also preparing to introduce a new corporate logo and a name change for its recently acquired electric utility subsidiary. That means that customers of Progress Energy, which once was Carolina Power & Light, will have to get accustomed to a new name: Duke Energy Progress.

Since completing its merger July 2, the combined Duke has now filled the top 675 executive and management positions and is staffing mid-level and lower-level slots. What remains unknown is the number of people who will be laid off as a result of the consolidation, which will eliminate 1,860 positions companywide.

“We are making extensive efforts to minimize the number of employees who must leave the company involuntarily,” Duke CEO Jim Rogers said in an Aug. 31 letter to the N.C. Utilities Commission. “Our goal is to provide affected employees with options whenever possible.

“In situations where we have exhausted these options and an involuntary severance is unavoidable, we have put in place a severance plan that provides financial assistance for the transition,” Rogers wrote.

The schedule for the name change, new logo and staffing are outlined in Rogers’ four-page update to the utilities commission. Duke is preparing an extensive customer-education strategy to ease Progress customers into the new name, which will be introduced next year.

Despite the new moniker, customers will likely keep saying Duke and Progress (just as some old-timers still refer to Progress as CP&L). The Progress and Duke subsidiaries will operate independently, with their own rates, for years to come.

“We have a phased approach to name and the logo change that is built around minimizing customer confusion,” said Duke spokesman Tom Williams. Rogers updated the utilities commission as the state regulatory panel continues an investigation into the sudden firing of previous CEO Bill Johnson just hours after the merger was completed. The commission approved the merger in late June on the expectation that Johnson would be CEO of the combined company.

Duke now is the nation’s largest electric utility, with 7.1 million power customers in six states and unregulated operations, such as wind farms and hydroelectric projects, throughout the U.S. and in Latin America.

Rogers’ letter notes that since the merger was announced in January 2011, about 340 employees have left on their own. Another 1,150 or so have opted to take the voluntary severance program. Based on those numbers, several hundred could be laid off from corporate functions that are being consolidated.

“For many employees, particularly at the power plants and in field operations, there will be little or no change,” Rogers wrote.

Rogers also notes that 130 employees are moving to Charlotte, most of them from Progress Energy. At the same time, Duke’s state headquarters for North Carolina, which includes government and regulatory functions, is moving from Charlotte to Raleigh.

Murawski: 919-829-8932

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