Brunetti, Wayne 1942–
Chairman and chief executive officer, Xcel Energy
Family: Son of Henry Joseph and Lillian Lupo; married Mary Kelly, 1963; children: two.
Career: Florida Power & Light Company, 1964–1968, accountant; 1968–1969, systems analyst; 1969–1972, project coordinator; 1972–1973, manager of property accounting; 1973–1977, manager of corporate accounting and assistant comptroller; 1977–1980, assistant to the vice president of public affairs; 1980, director of energy management; 1980–1983, vice president of energy management; 1983–1984, vice president; 1984–1987, group vice president; 1987–1991, executive vice president; Management Systems International, 1991–1994, CEO and president; Public Service Company of Colorado, 1994–1996, president and COO; 1996–1997, CEO and president; New Century Energies, 1997–2000, president and COO; 2000, CEO and president; Xcel Energy, 2001–2003, chairman, CEO, and president; 2003–, chairman and CEO.
Awards: Distinguished Leadership Award, Rocky Mountain Electrical League, 2000.
Publications: Achieving Total Quality: Integrating Business Strategy and Customer Needs, 1993.
■ Wayne Brunetti brought nearly 40 years of quality improvement and management experience to his role as chairman and chief executive officer of Xcel Energy, the electricity and natural-gas provider for consumers in 11 states. Xcel was formed in August 2000 by the merger of New Century Energies of Denver, of which Brunetti had been chairman and
CEO, and Northern States Power of Minneapolis. Colleagues described Brunetti as a knowledgeable and methodical leader who was deeply committed to the energy industry and had a strong vision for his company.
After graduating from the University of Florida in 1964 with a degree in business administration, Brunetti was hired by Florida Power & Light as an accountant. Over 28 years with the company he moved steadily up the corporate ladder into various management positions, including project coordinator, assistant to the vice president of public affairs, vice president of energy management, group vice president, and finally executive vice president. Brunetti left the company in 1991 to strike out on his own, relying on his expertise in quality improvement to start a consulting company called Management Systems International.
With the goal of helping the senior management of companies improve the quality of their organizations, much of Brunetti's work took him to Europe. He told the Denver Business Journal, "This was very personally rewarding because as much as I taught them, they taught me. And I learned a lot about different businesses, different approaches to running a business, and the different management philosophies of running a business" (November 21, 1997). He compiled the knowledge he gained into a book, Achieving Total Quality: Integrated Business Strategy and Customer Needs, which was published by Quality Resources in 1993.
XCEL ENERGY AND ITS PREDECESSORS
In 1994 Brunetti was recruited by Public Service Company of Colorado to fill the role of president and chief operating officer. While he was initially wary of the offer, he accepted; he informed the Denver Business Journal, "I felt it was at a time when many things were going to happen in the industry that had not happened in the last 50 years, and I really wanted to be a part of that. I always had ideas about how to run a utility differently. I always was a little bit of a maverick" (November 21, 1997). He became CEO of Public Service in 1996.
In 1997 Public Service merged with the Texas-based Southwestern Public Service Company to form New Century Energies, and Brunetti was appointed vice chairman, president, and chief operating officer; he became president and chief executive officer in 2000. During his tenure with the two companies Brunetti focused on improving service quality; to refer to his main goals he used the acronym "RSVP": reliability, safety, value added, and price. Brunetti told the Journal that he helped Public Service make "dramatic improvements in its customer service, reliability, and cost containment" (November 21, 1997).
Yet another merger occurred in August 2000, this time with the Minneapolis-based Northern States Power Company, creating Xcel Energy. Brunetti was named chairman, president, and chief executive officer in 2001, with Richard Kelly relieving him of the position of president in 2003. In 2004 Xcel provided services to 3.3 million electricity customers and 1.7 million natural gas customers in 11 states, making it the fourth-largest electricity and natural gas company in the United States.
Brunetti's expertise and commitment to the industry led to his appointment to the National Petroleum Council, an advisory body to the U.S. Department of Energy. In 2004 Brunetti was elected chairman of the Edison Electric Institute, and he once served as the chairman of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. He also served on the boards of Capital City Partnership, the Juran Center for Leadership and Quality, and the Denver Chamber of Commerce.
UPS AND DOWNS
Brunetti came under fire for several reasons during his early years with Xcel. In 2002 the company lost a struggle to save its flagging NRG Energy unit from bankruptcy. After stock values dropped 60 percent and the per-share dividend was cut from $1.50 to $0.75, Xcel was sued by investors who claimed that senior management had held back crucial information. Xcel's board of directors received a letter from Minnesota's attorney general asking for Brunetti's resignation because of the possible financial effects on the state's electricity users. In 2003 the company rebounded, however, defying analysts' expectations and posting a share price that was 54 percent higher than it had been in 2002.
In 2004 Brunetti and other Xcel executives faced further criticism from shareholders regarding the company's executive compensation and pension program, which Brunetti and Kelly defended, stating in the Rocky Mountain News that all Xcel employees were paid "market-based rates" (May 21, 2004).
In spite of the occasional controversies Brunetti's colleagues described him as a highly committed and visionary leader. In the Denver Business Journal George Dibble, the former president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, noted, "He's very precise in his approach to things. He's very well attuned to what is going on in the state and what we need to do to move the business community forward." Steve Coffin, the vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Colorado Interstate Gas, said, "He is a very thoughtful, thorough, smart person. He is a strong leader with a strong vision and a strong understanding of how to get from here to there, not only in his business but in his community as well" (November 21, 1997).
See also entry on Public Service Company of Colorado in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Aven, Paula, "Sparking a New Century," Denver Business Journal, November 21, 1997.
Blahnik, Mike, "For CEO Pensions, Rank Has Its Privileges," Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul), May 18, 2003.
Chakrabarty, Gargi, "Xcel Shareholders Fume over Bonuses," Rocky Mountain News, May 21, 2004.
"Wayne Brunetti Elected EEI Chairman," PR Newswire, June 14, 2004.
—Stephanie Dionne Sherk