Former chairman and chief executive officer, TXU Corporation
Born: June 1938, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Education: Texas A&M University, BS, 1959; Southern Methodist University, JD, 1965.
Family: Son of a veterinarian (name unknown); married (wife's name unknown).
Career: Texas Utilities Company, 1960–1987, various management positions; 1987–1995, president; 1995–1997, chief executive officer and president; 1997–1999, chairman and CEO; TXU Corporation, 1999–2004, chairman and CEO; 2004–2005, chairman.
Awards: Honorary Doctorate, Baylor College of Dentistry, 1997; Distinguished Citizen Award, Longhorn Council of the Boy Scouts of America, 1998; Dallas Father of the Year Award, 1998; Humanitarian of the Year, American Jewish Committee, 1999; C. W. Conn Distinguished New Venture Leader Award, Mays College and Graduate School of Business, 2001; Robert G. Storey Award, Southern Methodist University, 2002; Distinguished Leader Award, Texas Association of Business, 2002.
Address: TXU Corporation, Energy Plaza, 1601 Bryan Street, 33rd Floor, Dallas, Texas 75201-3411; http://www.txucorp.com.
■ Erle Nye rose to become the chairman and chief executive officer of TXU Corporation (formerly Texas Utilities Company), the diverse energy company based in Dallas, Texas. Under Nye's reign TXU at one time served the energy needs of customers not only in Texas but in England and other European countries as well as parts of Australia. Optimistic and confident in his outlook, Nye's vision was to integrate gas and electrical utilities when possible, with the goal of consolidating energy generation, delivery, and service.
Nye attended Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where he earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering; he then earned a degree in law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. As soon as he graduated in 1960, he took an entry-level engineering position with Texas Utilities (TU). The son of a veterinarian, Nye had a love of horseback riding and ranches. He worked hard to succeed at his company by focusing his energies on a wide variety of issues, including finance, law, operations, and regulatory guidelines.
When Nye started working for Texas Utilities, the company operated strictly on a regional basis, delivering electricity to customers in the state of Texas. TU was the umbrella company for both TU Electric and Southwestern Electric Service. In 1996 Nye was instrumental in merging TU with the natural gas company Enserch Corporation and its subsidiaries, which were involved in the processing and marketing of natural gas as well as in independent power production. After the merger TU became the primary utility company in northern Texas.
As the 1990s progressed Nye initiated an expansion program at Texas Utilities—which changed its name to TXU Corporation in 1999—leading to the purchase of utility companies throughout Europe as well as one in Australia. TXU doubled the value of its assets between 1996 and 2000, from $20 billion to $40 billion; in the same period of time the company tripled revenues from its gas and electric divisions. Nye also saw opportunities in telecommunications, and TXU expanded to include the company Lukin-Conroe in its operations. TXU's successful expansion across three continents pleased Nye, who believed his company had the opportunity to grow even further and become one of the most prosperous international energy firms in the world.
However by 2002 Nye's grandiose plans began to fall apart. In 2001 wholesale prices declined sharply in Britain due to newly introduced regulations, leading TXU to reduce its profits forecast. In addition to its pricing problems TXU fought to keep customers who were being given a greater number of choices for energy providers. Nye initiated aggressive money-saving plans that entailed restructuring the company, ending development, and laying off some employees. Unfortunately these measures proved ineffective at halting the UK division's problems; TXU agreed to sell that division to the German-owned company Powergen in October 2002 to ease its debts.
By February 2003 Nye's plans were completely in ruins. The UK operation had been forced to file for bankruptcy in late 2002. Shareholders saw their dividends get cut by nearly 80 percent, from $2.40 to $0.50. TXU was forced to report $4.2 billion in losses for 2002, whereas only two years earlier the company had reported a profit of $655 million. Nye's words to Sudeep Reddy of the Dallas Morning News revealed the effect that the company's failure had on him: "It's painful. I will always remember it. But I think it provides us a clear path ahead and a promising one" (February 6, 2003). In response to the company's dismal peformance Nye took a cut in compensation of more than $5.5 million.
In early 2003, having survived the company's worst-performing years, Nye announced his plans for retirement and his intention to handpick his successor. Unlike several contemporary energy-company CEOs who found themselves caught up in investigations for fraud, Nye had steered TXU through turbulent times and emerged with his own and the company's reputations intact. Hoping to finish his career on an upbeat note, Nye summed up his desire to pick the next chief executive in a statement made to Mitchell Schnurman of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram : "It's my last opportunity to do something really good for the company" (May 7, 2003).
In early 2004 Nye named John Wilder, formerly the chief financial officer at Entergy Corporation in New Orleans, Louisiana, to be his replacement as president and CEO. Nye's tenure as chairman of the board for TXU ended in 2005. As of his departure TXU was the gas and electricity provider for 2.6 million customers in North Texas as well as one million customers in Australia.
Koo, Carolyn, "Texan Stands Out among Energy Firm CEOs," Houston Chronicle , July 12, 2002.
Piller, Dan, "TXU Chairman to Get 75 Percent Cut in Compensation Pay," Fort Worth Star-Telegram , February 16, 2003.
Reddy, Sudeep, "After Nearly $5 Billion Loss, TXU Corp. to Concentrate on Core Texas Business," Dallas Morning News , February 6, 2003.
——, "A Year after Stock Dive, the Chairman Reports a 'Sense of Renewal,'" Dallas Morning News , September 13, 2003.
Schnurman, Mitchell, "Retiring TXU Chief Executive Seeks Own Replacement, Repair to Tarnished Legacy," Fort Worth Star-Telegram , May 7, 2003.
—Eve M. B. Hermann