In the staid world of energy utilities, Jim Rogers has always “cut a flashier figure” than his colleagues, said Rebecca Smith and Miguel Bustillo in The Wall Street Journal. Whether he’s holding court at Davos or on The Colbert Report, the 64-year-old CEO of Charlotte, N.C.–based Duke Energy has long been seen as the industry’s visionary. Now the former Kentucky newspaperman and lawyer is being cast as the architect of “a boardroom coup.” Last week, Duke Energy’s $26 billion merger with Progress Energy was finally completed, creating the biggest U.S. utility. But after just a few hours, the new company’s Duke-dominated board ousted Bill Johnson, the Progress executive slated to become CEO, and replaced him with Rogers. Startled regulators are now investigating whether Rogers and his Duke allies executed the merger in bad faith.
The surprise switch has “sent shock waves through the energy industry,” said Peter Lattman in The New York Times. Rogers is seen as an “outspoken and aggressive leader,” but the abrupt move has attracted accusations of a corporate hijacking. “This is the most blatant example of corporate deceit that I have witnessed during a long career on Wall Street,” said former Progress Energy director John H. Mullin.