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Reynolds, Paula Rosput

Reynolds, Paula Rosput

Career
Sidelights
Sources

Chief Executive Officer of Safeco

B orn Paula Gail Rosput, October 2, 1956, in Newport, RI; divorced first husband; married Stephen P. Reynolds (a utility executive), October 2004; children: one (from first marriage). Education: Wellesley College, B.A., 1978.

Addresses: Office—Safeco Corporation, 1001 Fourth Ave., Seattle, WA 98154.

Career

E conomist, consulting firm in Boston, 1978-79; economist, Pacific Gas Transmission Company, 1979, rose to the post of senior vice president; unit president, Panhandle Eastern Corporation, c. 1995, which was acquired by Duke Energy NorthAmerica of Houston, TX; president and chief executive officer, Duke Energy Power Services, late 1990s; president and chief operating officer, AGL Resources, Atlanta, GA, late 1998, then president and chief executive officer, 2000-05, and board chair, 2002-05; named president and chief executive officer, Safeco Corporation, January 2006; named board chair, May 2008.

Member: Board of directors, American Gas Association; board of directors, United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta, c. 2000-2006; board of directors, Coca-Cola Enterprises, 2001—; board of directors, Delta Air Lines, 2004—.

Awards: Ten Leading Innovators in Energy, Public Utilities Fortnightly, 1999; Shattered Ceiling Award, Atlanta Women’s Foundation, c. 2000; inducted into business hall of fame, Georgia State University, 2004; 50 most powerful women in business, Fortune magazine, 2006; 100 most powerful women, Forbes magazine, 2006-07.

Sidelights

P aula Rosput Reynolds became chief executive of the Safeco Corporation, a Seattle-based property and casualty insurance company, in 2006 after a long career in the energy and utility industry. A year later, she was the only woman to rank among a Wall Street Journal survey of the top 50 highest-paid financial-services executives in the United States. One of the reasons she moved cross-country to take the job, she told Atlanta Journal-Constitution writers Maria Saporta and Robert Luke, was to be able to cohabitate with her husband, an executive with Puget Energy in Bellevue, Washington. “How many times will a Fortune 500 job come up in Seattle, Washington, where my husband and I could be in the same city?”

A native of Rhode Island, Reynolds was born in 1956, and described herself as “the short, fat girl with glasses” to Patricia R. Olsen in the New York Times interview. “My parents tried to teach me that being smart and being nice would ultimately make up for the shortcomings of childhood.” She went on to Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, a women’s liberal arts college whose alumnae include U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. After graduating in 1978 with a degree in economics, Reynolds took a job with a Boston consulting firm.

A year later, in 1979, Reynolds was hired as an economist with the Pacific Gas Transmission Com- pany, or PGT, and by the mid1990s had reached the position of senior vice president with the San Francisco-based division of the larger Pacific Gas & Electric, which is the main provider of natural gas and electricity to residents of northern California. One of her job duties was to supervise construction of a controversial natural-gas pipeline from Alberta, Canada, into northern California. Her involvement in this sector of the energy industry led to a new job as president of a unit of Panhandle Eastern Corporation, which also built and ran natural gas pipelines. The Houston, Texas, company was acquired by Duke Energy North America, and Reynolds was given a new title as president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy Power Services, the non-regulated division of Duke Energy.

In late 1998, Reynolds joined AGL Resources of Atlanta as chief operating officer. This was a division of the Atlanta Gas Light Company, founded in 1856 to light the gaslamps on the streets of pre-Civil War Atlanta. The AGL division was a holding company for several other businesses, including a half-dozen natural-gas utility companies spread across six states. Reynolds became president and chief executive officer of AGL in 2000 when her immediate boss resigned; two years later AGL’s board named her chair, too, which made her the highest ranking female executive in Georgia. During her five years on the job, she oversaw a period of increased growth and profitability for AGL, whose stock was a favorite of Wall Street analysts.

Reynolds kept AGL on course and managed to double the price of its shares after reducing the workforce by 25 percent, which became a necessary task at a time when the company was suffering heavy financial losses. “Laying people off weighs on you because you know how much you’re affecting their lives,” she told Olsen, the New York Times journalist. “I was plagued with doubt. I’d go home every day and ask myself, ‘Did I do any good today?’”

After more than a quarter-century in the energy sector, Reynolds surprised many of her colleagues when she accepted an offer from Seattle-based Safeco Corporation, an insurance provider, to become its next president and chief executive officer in late 2005. This was just a year after her marriage to Stephen Reynolds, the man who had hired her at PGT back in 1979. Both had first marriages that ended in divorce, and had remained in professional contact over the years. They wed in 2004, when she was still living in Atlanta, where she cared for her teenaged son and an ailing father, and had agreed to a commuter marriage that involved her new husband—by then the CEO of Puget Energy in Belle-vue, Washington—flying to Atlanta each weekend. Fortuitously, Reynolds was on the board of Delta Airlines, and because of this her new husband enjoyed one of the perks of being married to a Delta board member—free airfare anywhere Delta flies.

Safeco presented an unusual challenge for Reynolds, in part because it was three times larger than AGL, with 7,600 employees and $6.2 billion in revenues in 2006, but also because she was unfamiliar with the property and casualty insurance-business. In contrast to the energy and natural-gas industry, she told Meg Green of Best’s Review, insurance was “a very high-margin business compared to the business I came over from. There, we made a lot of long-term capital investments, and had to hope it worked out. Here, if I make a judgment on price, I can fix it any time I want. I am not locked in for 30 years on decisions I make.”

Shortly after taking over at Safeco, Reynolds was the subject of a Wall Street Journal profile by Joann Lublin with a rather unusual angle—her marriage to Stephen Reynolds, who still chaired Puget Energy. In the article headlined “CEOs Juggle Love, Power,” Lublin pointed out that the couple had an unusual distinction as the only married CEO pair of two publicly traded U.S. companies. When Reynolds took the job with Safeco, it meant that she and her husband could live together permanently for the first time in their marriage. Lublin interviewed her in early 2006, and Reynolds said that though her 92year-old father had a caregiver who came to the house on a part-time basis, she preferred to clean the house herself instead of hiring a service. “It’s part of how I keep myself grounded.”

Sources

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 8, 2005.

Best’s Review, October 2007, p. 56.

New York Times, March 6, 2005.

Seattle Times, December 8, 2005.

US Banker, October 2007, p. 93.

Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2006, p. B1.

—Carol Brennan

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