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Debra Reed is stepping down as CEO of Sempra Energy

Debra Reed is stepping down as CEO of Sempra Energy
Sempra Energy CEO Debra Reed speaks during the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 in Las Vegas in 2013. Reed said Monday she is stepping down. (Isaac Brekken / Getty)

Just days after Sempra Energy wrapped up the largest acquisition in the company's history, Debra Reed announced Monday that she will be stepping down as president and chief executive of the San Diego company.

Reed, 61, who has led Sempra since 2011, is one of the few women running a major corporation as well as one of the only women at the top of a major energy company.

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"She's had a tremendous career and she has been a trailblazer for women at the top of electric utilities in the United States," said Gary Ackerman, executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum, an organization based in Sacramento whose 90 members in the West buy and sell power.

Sempra's board of directors elected company finance chief Jeff Martin to assume Reed's CEO role and Joseph Householder, group president of infrastructure businesses, to take over as president.

Reed will retain her CEO and president duties until May 1 and will stay on until Dec. 1, serving as Sempra Energy's executive chairman. She did not give a specific reason for her retirement but in a statement Monday morning alluded to having spent 40 years "in the Sempra Energy family of companies."

Late last week, Sempra completed the final steps to acquire Oncor, the largest utility in Texas, for $9.45 billion.

The transaction greatly expands Sempra's reach into one of the biggest energy markets in North America and, together with subsidiaries San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas, creates a utility holding company with the largest customer base in the U.S.

Sempra also has assets in Mexico and South America and, along with international partners, is building a liquefied natural gas facility in Louisiana and has plans to build another in Port Arthur, Texas.

Reed started with SoCalGas in 1978, shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in civil engineering. Within 10 years, she became the company's first female officer. Reed assisted in the $6.2-billion merger that created Sempra itself in 1998.

Under Reed, Sempra Energy's market value more than doubled, reaching nearly $29 billion. According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Reed's salary in 2016 was $1.39 million and she received a $1.83-million bonus. With restricted stock that vested in 2016, Reed's compensation was $16.66 million.

In 2015, the largest methane leak from a natural gas storage facility in U.S. history occurred at the Aliso Canyon site operated by SoCalGas. The leak led to the evacuation of thousands of residents in the Porter Ranch subdivision in Los Angeles County.

In 2007, deadly wildfires broke out in San Diego County that killed two people, injured 40 firefighters and forced tens of thousands to seek shelter at Qualcomm Stadium. Investigations showed that the fires started when power lines ignited nearby brush.

The California Public Utilities Commission last November rejected a request from SDG&E to pass onto ratepayers $379 million in costs related to the fires, agreeing with a pair of administrative law judges at the commission who concluded SDG&E did not reasonably manage and operate its facilities.

Nikolewski writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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