PG&E; chief Peter Darbee to step down

PG&E Corp., owner of California's largest utility, said Chairman and Chief Executive Peter A. Darbee was stepping down in the aftermath of the fatal San Bruno pipeline blast last year.

Darbee, 58, also serves as president and will retire effective April 30, San Francisco-based PG&E said Thursday in a statement. He will be replaced on an interim basis by board member Lee Cox. Cox has been a member of the company's board since 1996 and is a former vice chairman of AirTouch Communications Inc. and a former CEO of AirTouch Cellular.

Eight people died and more than 30 homes were destroyed after a pipeline owned by PG&E exploded in San Bruno on Sept. 9. PG&E, which is facing scrutiny from state regulators, has said it strengthened its natural gas operations and revised instructions for responding to emergencies after the explosion.

"Peter concluded that a change in leadership would create the best opportunity for PG&E to move ahead after a challenging year," Cox said in the statement. "The board supported his decision."

Cox, 70, said the search for Darbee's successor is underway, with an announcement expected soon. Darbee joined PG&E in 1999 as chief financial officer and became CEO in 2005. He took on the role of chairman in 2006.

PG&E shares were unchanged in after-hours trading after the announcement at $45.18.

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