Doyle Beneby, who left CPS Energy in October 2015 to lead an international renewable energy company, withdrew his name from consideration as CPS Energy’s CEO on Saturday, only one day after news broke that he was returning to his former executive position at the energy utility.
The story of his intended return was first reported on the Rivard Report News on Friday, but it appears that public scrutiny of his generous compensation package “just isn’t worth it” for him, CPS Energy Board Chair Ed Kelley said Saturday.
Earlier this year, after a previous candidate dropped out of contract negotiations, Kelley asked Beneby, who was still living in San Antonio, to reconsider his decision to become the head of Chicago-based New Generation Power International and instead return to his former job.
“To my surprise, he said he would keep an open mind,” Kelley said. “When he left the door open I rushed in. … We had been in very productive discussions, and we were at the point then when we were close to a contract.”
The board spent the last few weeks drawing up a new employment contract and compensation package with Beneby, Kelley said, and directors were discussing an emergency meeting to approve his rehiring. Various other civic and business leaders were made aware of the development. Some said they were pleased by the news and thought Beneby was the utility’s best possible leader. Others thought his on-again, off-again talks with the board had taken on the quality of a soap opera. Several executives decided to leave CPS Energy during the search period, and many remaining executives reacted with near-disbelief at the news of his pending return.
“After consultation with CPS Chairman of the Board Ed Kelley, and Doyle Beneby, I can confirm that Mr. Beneby has removed his name from consideration for the CEO position,” Mayor Ivy Taylor, an ex officio board member, said Saturday evening in a statement. “We want to thank Doyle Beneby for his past service, during which he was a huge asset to the city of San Antonio. He has moved CPS into a diversified provider of energy for a growing city. I have the highest confidence in Chair Ed Kelley and in his continued leadership of our municipally-owned utility. CPS Energy is vital to the fiscal health of San Antonio, and I look forward to starting a new search process that will find an outstanding candidate to lead CPS Energy into the future. I anticipate a full discussion at the Board meeting next week.”
As first reported by the Express-News, Beneby became a member of the board at the international head hunter firm Korn Ferry after he left CPS Energy and joined New Generation. Korn Ferry was tasked with finding candidates for the board’s search committee and is the same firm that connected CPS Energy to Beneby in 2010. The newspaper was the first to report the news Saturday that Beneby had withdrawn.
“He could see some questions starting to surface about his relationship with Korn Ferry and the questions again about what his compensation was going to be and if we were paying too much,” Kelley said. While that kind of exposure is endemic to publicly owned utilities and departments, “(Beneby) has so many other options, it wasn’t worth pursuing. … This could end up being a distraction for the city, for himself, for the board, and for the CPS (Energy).”
Thankfully, Kelley said, interim CEO Paula Gold-Williams is doing a “very, very good job,” keeping the company running smoothly. Gold-Williams had issued a statement to all employees Friday announcing that a CEO hire was imminent.
Beneby could not be reached for comment by deadline.
For now, the board will meet next week and review their options before moving forward with the search.
Recently, the search has been focused on getting Beneby back, but before that process started Korn Ferry had “others that they were ready to present to us,” Kelley said. “There are still plenty of outstanding people out there and we’ll end up with one of them. (CPS Energy) is an outstanding, well managed company – (to be its CEO) is an extremely attractive position.”
Top image: On October 26, 2015, CPS Energy outgoing President and CEO talks with journalists about his departure. Photo by Scott Ball.