Sierra Pacific recalls former CEO to lead the company

On the heels of a big second quarter loss and departure of its former chairman, Sierra Pacific Resources� board of directors recalled its former CEO Walter M. Higgins to head the company as chairman, president, and CEO. The new appointment is effective immediately, the board said Wednesday.

Aug 11th, 2000


Ann de Rouffignac
OGJOnline

On the heels of a big second quarter loss and departure of its former chairman, Sierra Pacific Resources� board of directors recalled its former CEO Walter M. Higgins to head the company as chairman, president, and CEO. The new appointment is effective immediately, the board said Wednesday.

Michael R. Niggli, prior CEO and chairman, resigned late last month. Higgins rejoins Sierra after a 2-year stint with AGL Resources Inc., where he presided over that company's journey through deregulation in Georgia's natural gas market.

At Sierra Pacific he will be called upon the guide the company through a pending merger with Portland General Electric, fall out from the sale of the company's generation, and fuel-purchase related losses in the second quarter.

Higgins, 55, served as chairman, president, and CEO of the Reno-based utility from 1994 to 1998. He left Sierra Pacific to head up AGL Resources Inc. in Atlanta Georgia in 1998.

When he joined AGL, the natural gas distribution industry was about to undergo complete deregulation, and AGL was about to get its first taste of competition. While he presided over tumultuous times, AGL subsequently began to recover some of its lost ground due to rapid deregulation. The company�s earnings performance has exceeded analysts� expectations for the last 3 quarters. He also oversaw AGL's acquisition of Virginia Natural Gas.

Niggli, resigned his post at Sierra Pacific to pursue other business opportunities July 21. Niggli had only occupied the top spot at Sierra Pacific for 1 year after the merger with Nevada Power was completed in July 1999. Niggli had been president and CEO of Nevada Power Co. when the two Nevada utilities merged.

To get the merger approved, Nevada State regulators required the two companies to sell off their generation. They did. The merged utility did not have enough power under contract to supply customers' needs during the intense heat that has blanketed the Southwest so far this summer. Buying power on the open market to make up the shortfall cost the company dearly.

Just prior to Niggli�s resignation, Sierra Pacific announced second quarter earnings as well as earnings for the rest of the year would be negatively impacted by unexpected fuel and purchased power expenses.

The company projected these expenses would exceed budgeted amounts by $70-$80 million for the second quarter alone. Sierra Pacific reported a second quarter loss of $20.2 million, or 26�/share, on $490.7 million of revenue.

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