Williamson, Bruce A. 1959–
Bruce A. Williamson
President and chief executive officer, Dynegy
Born: 1959, in Great Falls, Montana.
Education: University of Montana, BS, 1981; University of Houston, MBA, 1995.
Family: Son of George Williamson and June (maiden name unknown); married Kim (maiden name unknown); children: two.
Career: Royal Dutch/Shell Group, 1981–1995, executive then assistant treasurer of Shell Oil Company; PanEnergy Corporation, 1995–1997, treasurer; 1997, vice president of finance; Duke Energy Corporation, 1997–1998, senior vice president of business development and risk management for Duke Energy International; 1998–2001, president and CEO of Duke Energy International; 2001–2002, president and CEO of Duke Energy Global Markets; Dynegy, 2002–, president and CEO.
Awards: Chancellor's National Advisory Council, University of Houston, c. 2002.
■ Bruce A. Williamson, an energy executive with over 20 years of experience in finance and energy, became president and chief executive officer of former energy dynamo Dynegy in October 2002, at which time he also became a member of the company's board of directors. Upon his appointment, the interim chief executive officer Dan Dienstbier, who remained as the company's chairman, said of Williamson, "Bruce has a proven track record of building and sustaining successful businesses throughout his career. His industry knowledge, financial acumen, and broad experience in commercial operations and customer relationships will provide the company with capable leadership as it continues to rebuild" (October 23, 2003).
With over two decades of experience with four Fortune 500 energy companies, Williamson needed all of his talent when
taking over Dynegy, which was nearly bankrupt in 2002. After years of operating very profitably with risky projects in energy trading and broadband Internet, Dynegy experienced a disastrous reverse in fortunes. Williamson came on in order to restructure the company and develop and execute a new business strategy. He went about improving Dynegy's financial state, strategically repositioning the company, and restoring and protecting value for shareholders.
As of 2004, Dynegy focused on oil and gas operations, generating and delivering regulated and unregulated energy (in the forms of electricity, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and coal) to wholesale U.S. customers and retail Illinois customers through its owned and contracted-for network of pipelines and other facilities. The company came into existence following the 1997 merger of Duke Power and PanEnergy Corporation; the name Dynegy was adopted in 1998. The company owned and operated a varied group of energy assets, including diversified power plants with a total net generating capacity of about 13,000 megawatts, approximately 40,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines, and gas-gathering plants that processed more than two billion cubic feet of natural gas per day in the states of Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas.
EXPERIENCE GAINED, TALENTS EARNED BEFORE DYNEGY
After graduating from the University of Montana in Missoula, Williamson was unable to find in-state jobs that paid more than $10,000 a year; he went to work for the Shell Oil Company in Texas. Over the next 14 years, from 1981 to 1995, Williamson held positions of increasing managerial responsibility at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, ultimately advancing to the position of assistant treasurer of the Shell Oil Company. He was responsible for banking and rating-agency relationships, corporation-wide financial risk management and strategy, and cash management. Williamson was also actively involved in marketing, corporate audits and controls, and exploration and production.
Beginning in 1995 Williamson served as treasurer of the Houston-based PanEnergy Corporation; two years later he became vice president of finance, responsible for corporate development, commodity risk management, and strategic supervision of the treasury. He was also the overall transaction manager and led the negotiation of PanEnergy's $7.7 billion merger with Duke Power Company in 1997.
The merger created the country's second-largest natural-gas marketing and electric-power company, the Charlotte, North Carolina–based Duke Energy Corporation. Williamson became senior vice president of business development and risk management at Duke Energy International and one year later was appointed president and chief executive officer, directing strategy, business development, and asset management for global operations. His areas of focus included exploration and production; natural gas collection, processing, and liquids marketing; gas transmission; and power generation. Under Williamson's leadership the business expanded from one with 35 employees posting a net loss to one with over one thousand employees earning $300 million before taxes and interest.
In August 2001 Williamson secured the position of president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy Global Markets, which was headquartered in Houston, Texas. In this newly created organization Williamson was responsible for all Duke Energy units with international business and commodities positions. These units included Duke Energy International, Duke Engineering and Services, Duke Energy Merchants, and Duke Solutions. Williamson helped to position the company for increased integration and synergy as those units flourished in the global energy marketplace.
LEADING REORGANIZATION AND SAVING THE COMPANY
Before the economic downturn occurred in 2000, Dynegy had successfully cloned the rich ventures in energy trading and broadband Internet that had been pioneered by the energy merchant leader Enron Corporation of Houston, Texas. Within a year Dynegy saw its energy-trading revenues fall flat, after Enron was publicly exposed with illegally hiding debt and inflating profits in 2001. Like Enron, Dynegy faced investigations, indictments, and investor accusations during 2002 over irregularity of trading practices and finances. Dynegy was on the brink of sharing Enron's fate but was fortunate enough to hire Williamson to lead it out of its precariously downward-spiraling position.
Dynegy began to restructure before Williamson arrived and was struggling to continue as he accepted the helm position. Realizing that company executives had taken positive strides toward substantially improving Dynegy's financial condition and properly restructuring its business, Williamson felt confident that the company could reestablish itself as an energy-industry leader. He quickly announced that Dynegy, whose stock value had slipped to less than a dollar per share, would not declare bankruptcy; he was confident that problems could be corrected. He stated that the company would save as many jobs as possible, continue to serve its customers, pay suppliers, and work with banks and other creditors to pay off debts. As reported by the Associated Press, Williamson was of the opinion that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy was akin to saying, "I borrowed money and now I don't have to pay it back" (November 27, 2003); he was adamantly unaccepting of such a position.
During the first year of his reign Williamson concentrated on successfully arranging bank refinancings and restructuring capital so as to postpone the paying off of company debt. His approach to management involved witnessing first-hand the state of the struggling company; as a testament to his dedication he once traveled more than three thousand miles in two days in order to visit Dynegy facilities in West Texas. His reorganization plans helped Dynegy reduce debt from nearly $9 billion to $7.4 billion, thereby extending maturities, and increase the value of its bonds from only 20 cents on the dollar to the price at which they were originally sold. On the negative side Williamson was forced to layoff more than 1,100 employees, fire or accept the resignations of many from top management, watch the credit rating go to junk status, and endure a miserable energy market.
RETURNING TO CORE BUSINESSES
Through the end of 2002 and into 2003 the pragmatic Williamson made dynamic changes to Dynegy's core business operations. He fired several traders and disciplined others for deceptive data reporting to commodity price-index publishers. He later closed down the company's energy-trading unit, which included its online-trading platform. In May 2003 Williamson sold the company's telecommunications business, including a high-capacity broadband network of about 16,000 route miles with access points in 44 U.S. cities.
Williamson restructured the company's remaining operations around the natural gas production of Dynegy Midstream Services and the electricity production of Dynegy Generation. Williamson tried to divest the company of its smallest subsidiary and only regulated business, Illinois Power, which dealt in the transmission and distribution of electricity and natural gas, serving about 590,000 electricity customers and about 415,000 natural gas customers in its home state. The company was eventually sold to Ameren Corporation in 2004, helping to further stabilize Dynegy's financial position.
REVIEWING WILLIAMSON'S ACTIONS
Jim Hackett, the president and chief operating officer of Devon Energy Corporation in Oklahoma City, who had previously worked with Williamson, perceived the swiftness of his moves with Dynegy. As reported by Kristen Hays in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Williamson's actions prompted Hackett to say, "Several years down the road, we'll see how effectively Dynegy can compete as power markets come back and business improvements allow them to start looking for growth" (October 29, 2003). Larissa Poindexter, head of the Poindexter Investment Management Group in Houston, added her comments about Williamson: "He has really been good at making a clean sweep, but Dynegy still has a lot of problems. Enron's a casualty, but Dynegy's probably going to make it, because Williamson has vision" (October 29, 2003). Although Dynegy's credit ratings were still at junk levels in 2004, credit-rating agencies had increased the status of Dynegy's future outlook to "positive" or "stable."
ESTABLISHING A FOUNDATION
By the third quarter of 2003 Williamson had taken Dynegy from near bankruptcy to a solid financial foundation. His vision allowed Dynegy to be the first energy distributor to resolve the investigations into illicit accounting and trading conducted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby, who led the criminal investigation against former Dynegy employees, said that Williamson's cooperation aided in locating and identifying possible wrongdoers: "He changed the standard operating procedures in such a way that honesty and candor is part of the company's business plan" (November 27, 2003).
Williamson reformed Dynegy from a company once dealing in high-risk initiatives to a steady business focusing on reliable power generation. Following the company's stabilization, the issues facing Williamson involved market strategy rather than financial restructuring. He continued to stress the importance of debt reduction and the building up of remaining businesses. Stan Luckoski, the spokesperson for the United States' second-largest integrated oil and gas company ChevronTexaco and Dynegy's largest shareholder, said with regard to Williamson, "ChevronTexaco management believes that under Bruce's leadership, Dynegy has made very good progress in addressing the many difficult issues facing the company" (November 27, 2003).
Stock analysts who researched Dynegy remained unsure as to whether the company would fully recover, preferring to wait until at least 2006 to see how debt reduction and profit margin on power generation would turn out and to see how the energy sector as a whole would fare. Although Dynegy's future was unclear, the outlook was promising as a result of Williamson's disciplined management and reorganization of the company.
Williamson was active at the University of Houston, serving as a member of the Dean's Executive Advisory Board for the Bauer School of Business, and was honored with an appointment to the Chancellor's National Advisory Council. He also served on the board of directors of Houston 2012, the Children's Museum of Houston, and the executive committee of Ronald McDonald House.
See also entries on Duke Energy Corporation and Dynegy Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Associated Press, "CEO Returns Dynegy from Brink of Bankruptcy," Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, November 27, 2003, http://www.gasandoil.com/goc/company/cnn34814.htm.
"Bruce A. Williamson Named Dynegy President and CEO," HoustonXL.net, October 23, 2003, http://www.houstonxl.net/article.php?sid=106.
"Dynegy Taps Former Duke Exec as CEO," Houston Business Journal, October 23, 2002, http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2002/10/21/daily26.html.
Hays, Kristen, "A Year after Nearing the Brink, Dynegy Moves Ahead," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 29, 2003.
—William Arthur Atkins