Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said Thursday that Chief Executive Gordon Smith would leave the company in December, ending his tumultuous eight-year stint at the helm of Northern California’s largest utility.
Smith’s departure will coincide with the retirement of Robert Glynn Jr., chairman of the utility’s holding company, PG&E; Corp. Glynn, 62, announced his plans to leave the San Francisco-based company late last year when he stepped down as chief executive of the holding company and relinquished that job to Peter Darbee.
PG&E;'s board Thursday appointed Darbee to fill Glynn’s spot as chairman. Thomas King, the utility’s chief operating officer, will succeed Smith as chief executive of the utility.
“Peter and Tom ... are well suited to drive the continued growth of [PG&E;] and its core business and to succeed in the many opportunities we have,” Glynn said in a statement.
Glynn and Smith, 57, steered Pacific Gas & Electric through some of the darkest days in its 100-year history.
The difficulties piled up after California deregulated its electricity market -- a concept that PG&E; initially supported. But the plan didn’t pan out the way its supporters envisioned as a combination of market manipulation and supply shortages drove wholesale power prices far above the rates that PG&E; could charge its customers, depleting the utility’s finances.
Pacific Gas & Electric filed for bankruptcy protection in April 2001. State regulators and a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge ultimately approved a bailout that is expected to cost PG&E; customers at least $6 billion through 2012.
Glynn and Smith came under intense criticism during the utility’s three-year bankruptcy odyssey.
In 2003, PG&E; distributed more than $80 million in bonuses to several top executives, which the company said were designed as a reward for the utility’s recovery.
The parent company restored its stock dividend this year, ending a four-year suspension. PG&E;'s shares, which fell 43 cents Thursday to $37.74, are up 13% this year after rising 20% last year and 100% in 2003.