Chairman, president, and chief executive officer, Cinergy Corporation
Born: September 20, 1947, in Birmingham, Alabama.
Education: University of Kentucky, BBA, 1970; JD, 1974.
Family: Son of James E. Rogers and Margaret (Whatley) Rogers; married Robyn McGill (divorced); married Mary Anne Boldrick; children: three (first marriage).
Career: Commonwealth of Kentucky, assistant attorney general; Federal Energy Regulation Commission, assistant to the chief trial counsel, then deputy general counsel for litigation and enforcement; Supreme Court of Kentucky, law clerk; Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, 1985–1986, partner; Houston Natural Gas, executive vice president; PSI Energy, 1988–1994, chairman, president, and chief executive officer; Cinergy Corporation, 1994–, president; 1995–, chief executive officer; 2000–, chairman.
Awards: Received an honorary doctor of Law degree from Indiana State University, 1991; named to the University of Kentucky College of Business and Economics Hall of Fame, 1994; listed in "America's Most Powerful People" by Forbes , 2000.
Address: Cinergy Corporation, 139 East Fourth Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202; http://www.cinergy.com.
■ James E. Rogers catapulted from a successful career as a lawyer to become the chairman, chief executive officer, and president of Cinergy, one of the largest utility companies in the United States. After earning his law degree in 1974, Rogers served as assistant attorney general for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, as a law clerk for the presiding justice for the Supreme Court of Kentucky, and as a partner with the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C. He moved on to become executive vice president for Houston Natural Gas, the predecessor to Enron. He was later named president of Public Services Indiana (PSI) and was highly responsible for the merger between PSI and Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company that formed Cinergy. Rogers was well known not only for his innovative business strategies at Cinergy but also for his environmental advocacy.
Rogers was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1947 and grew up in Kentucky. His father, a laborer for the Southern Railroad, taught him his first lesson in entrepreneurship when Rogers was 12. Rogers's father had developed a solvent to seal leaks in car radiators, and he had Rogers put labels on the barrels of the solvent. Four years later, at age 16, Rogers found the opportunity to sell the solvent at local gas stations. Rogers told the New York Times in 1994 that the experience "taught him to be fast and persistent" (November 13, 1994).
After graduating from high school, Rogers attended Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, for a time before returning to his home state to attend the University of Kentucky. In 1970 he earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Kentucky, where he earned membership in Beta Gamma Sigma, a national honor society for business and management. After earning his undergraduate degree, he enrolled at the University of Kentucky College of Law. During his law school career, he was a member of the Kentucky Law Journal and published an article as a student in 1973. Despite his success as a law student, Rogers was desperate for work. He worked for a time at a funeral home and then asked an editor at the Lexington Herald Leader for a job as a rewrite man. Although he had no experience for the position, he got the job after he told the editor, "Look, you can train me the way you want" ( New York Times , November 13, 1994).
Rogers earned a juris doctor degree in 1974 and became a member of the Kentucky bar. By this time he was married and already had three children. After earning his law degree, he accepted a position as assistant attorney general for the State of Kentucky. He gained early experience with utility companies by fighting utility rate increases, and he later moved on to join the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), where he served as assistant chief trial attorney. He later became the deputy general counsel for enforcement and litigation, assisting the agency in enforcing environmental regulations.
Rogers continued his success as a lawyer, becoming a law clerk to the presiding justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court. He moved on to join the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, which represented several utility companies. Rogers was later named a partner in the firm.
During the mid-1980s Rogers left a successful career in law for a career in business, joining Houston Natural Gas, where he served as executive vice president. At Houston Natural Gas, which later changed its name to Enron, Rogers was in charge of the company's interstate pipelines—a $2.6 billion business. Two years later, in 1988, Rogers had an opportunity to take over as chairman, president, and chief executive officer of a fledgling electrical utilities company, Public Services Indiana, later known as PSI Energy.
PSI gave Rogers a mandate to clean up the utility company. In one of his first actions as head of the company, he met with several groups who protested the company's plan to install a nuclear reactor. Prior to Rogers's taking over as president, PSI had invested a reported $2.6 billion in the construction of a nuclear reactor but had later abandoned the project. Rogers met with opponents of the plant to mend relations. The cofounder of one of the opposition groups, Michael A. Mullett, told the New York Times , "Rogers came in as the white knight. He reached out to people" (July 6, 2003).
Rogers took unprecedented steps in making PSI a competitive utility. In an industry that had been strictly regulated, in which utility companies enjoyed regional monopolies, Rogers in 1990 allowed PSI customers to shop around to find cheaper utility alternatives. Considered "heretical" among energy companies, the risky plan paid dividends, however, as PSI was among the first companies to break free from regulatory control and to be able to negotiate long-term energy contracts. Vicki Bailey, a member of the FERC, told the New York Times , "He's a catalyst for change within the industry. He definitely does not seem to be afraid of the new competitive era that we're going into" (November 13, 1994).
In 1992 Congress enacted legislation that opened up the market for energy in an effort to increase competition. This legislation led Rogers to negotiate a merger, which was announced in 1992 and took place in 1993, with Cincinnati Gas and Electric Company. The new company was called Cinergy. Rogers was named as the company's vice chairman and president. Jackson H. Randolph, formerly the chairman, CEO, and president of Cincinnati Gas, was named chairman and chief executive.
The move to form Cinergy allowed the two companies to reduce their costs. PSI anticipated a $1.2 billion construction project that was necessary to ensure compliance with federal law. The move also improved the merged company's ability to compete in a more open marketplace. In 1992 Rogers noted, "From a strategic standpoint, we see change starting to sweep through our industry, eventually resulting in fundamental transformation" ( New York Times , December 15, 1992).
Cinergy remained the only utility company in the United States that voluntarily allowed industrial customers to shop for their power. Rogers maintained that the reasoning behind this strategy was anticipation of future competition. In an interview with the New York Times in 1994, Rogers pondered, "How do you convince a customer that you are the best choice for their electric supplier if you fought until the last dog was dead to keep out competitors?" (November 13, 1994). The strategy earned Rogers respect among his colleagues. According to Stanley T. Skinner, the president and chief executive officer of Pacific Gas and Electric, "Rather than resist the approaching change, or try to stuff the genie back in the bottle, [Rogers] is using his energy to dramatically reshape the way his company will do business. The customer is going to be relentless in pushing open markets" ( New York Times , November 13, 1994).
Rogers became chief executive officer in 1995 and later became chairman when Randolph retired in 2000. Cinergy's first 10 years, as Rogers announced in 2004, were quite successful. The company grew at an average annual rate of 4 to 6 percent during its first 10 years. Shareholders received 191 percent in returns, including about $1 billion in dividends, between 1994 and 2004. The company was able to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by 50 percent as well as to decrease nitrous dioxide emissions by 40 percent.
Because Rogers spent several years enforcing environmental regulations, his role as head of a major utility company was sometimes unusual. He spoke at hearings before congressional committees more than a dozen times, often advocating for limits to be placed on emissions. He told the New York Times in 2003, "Having been on many sides of the issue gives me a unique perspective. My whole career has been predicated on making common cause with other groups" (July 6, 2003). Even those who were often critical of utility companies showed their admiration for Rogers. "He's one of a new breed of utility executives," David G. Hawkins of the National Resources Defense Council, a New York environmental group, said of Rogers ( New York Times , July 6, 2003).
Although the company pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it was still targeted as one of the nation's largest pollutants. Cinergy's plants burned an estimated 30 million tons of coal annually, prompting some of its shareholders to include the company within the so-called "Filthy Five," referring to top utility companies that produced high levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Rogers personally supported limitations on carbon dioxide emissions in testimony before a congressional committee in 2001 but later reversed his stance. He continued, however, to support legislation that would reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and mercury—a position that was consistent with proposals introduced by the administration of President George W. Bush.
Rogers was highly active in industry, educational, and civic organizations. In addition to his responsibilities at Cinergy, Rogers served as director of First Bancorp and Fifth Third Bank as well as Duke Realty Corporation. He also served on the board of directors for Edison Electric Institute, the Indiana chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the Cincinnati Museum Association. He was a founding member of the University of Kentucky Business Partnership Foundation and served as a trustee of the National Symphony Orchestra.
In 1991 Rogers received an honorary doctor of law degree from Indiana State University. He was later inducted into the University of Kentucky College of Business and Economics Hall of Fame in 1994. He was also listed among "America's Most Powerful People" by Forbes magazine.
Boyer, Mike, "Cinergy Plans to Think 'BIG,'" Cincinnati Enquirer , May 5, 2004.
"Cinergy Energy Chief James Rogers Speaks His Mind," Industrialinfo.com , April 8, 2004, http://www.industrialinfo.com/ .
"Cinergy's Rogers Laments Midwest RTO Scene, But PJM Chief Says It Has Imposed 'Discipline,'" Electric Utility Week , April 5, 2004, p. 5.
Cortese, Amy, "From Green Knight to Utility King," New York Times , July 6, 2003.
Golden, Mark, "Cinergy CEO: Regulatory Uncertainty Good for Earnings," Dow Jones International News, February 13, 2004.
Newberry, Jon, "Cinergy Boss Cites Gains, Challenges," Cincinnati Post , May 5, 2004.
Salpukas, Agis, "Utility Competition Is Coming! (He's Ready, of Course)," New York Times , November 13, 1994.
Wald, Matthew L., "Cincinnati Utility to Merge with Indiana Counterpart," New York Times , December 15, 1992.
—Matthew C. Cordon