CPS Energy officials announced Monday on the public utility’s blog that outgoing President and CEO Doyle Beneby will in fact be leaving his position at the end of the month to lead an international renewable energy company.
“After serious consideration, I have decided to decline the most recent offer presented by our Board of Trustees. I am honored by the outpouring of community support I have received, and I assure you this decision was one of the most difficult decisions my wife and I have had to make,” Beneby stated in a subsequent email. “I’d like to again thank our Board, the CPS Energy Team and the San Antonio community for allowing me the opportunity to lead what I consider to be the premier utility in public power.”
The CPS Energy board formally approached its outgoing President and CEO Doyle Beneby more than a week ago with a deal that it hoped will entice him to stay. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed to the public.
“While this is disappointing, we wish Doyle and his family the best of luck in his new role, and thank him for his five years of extraordinary and innovative leadership,” stated CPS Energy board Chair Nora Chavez.
CPS Energy Chief Financial Officer Paula Gold-Williams is slated to take over as interim CEO on Nov. 1.
Beneby’s original last day was Sept. 30, but the board asked Beneby to stay on another month to allow for a smoother transition of responsibilities to Gold-Williams.
The proposal was thought by many to include an increased compensation package, but Chavez stated that was an incorrect assumption.
“The base pay and incentives of the new proposal had not changed from the original one, and at no time was there any consideration that he would reduce the amount of time and focus devoted to the important mission of our company,” Chavez stated.
Councilmember Joe Krier (D9) publicly criticized the proposal’s only known provision that would allow Beneby to serve a “non-CEO, advisory role” at the Chicago-based New Generation Power International (NGPI), which named him as its new CEO in September.
“Mr. Beneby is not indispensable. No executive ever is, either in the private or public sector,” Krier stated last week.
He said the compromise would mean that the CEO of CPS Energy would have his energies and focus split.
Efforts by executive search firm Korn Ferry International to recruit Beneby’s replacement from a pool of outside and internal candidates have been picked up where they were left off when the board made the offer to Beneby. After a board meeting on Monday, Chavez said the search has been narrowed down to eight candidates that have undergone interviews but declined to reveal how many of those eight are CPS Energy employees.
“We have made great progress, and we have a solid slate of candidates for review,” Chavez stated in her blog post.
Out of those eight candidates, a short list will be created to advance through the interview process.
“I would clone him,” Chavez joked after the meeting when asked what qualities she’s looking for in Beneby’s replacement.
He humbly denied that cloning would be the best course of action, but said he’s looking forward to giving his opinion when finalists are selected.
“I’ve just made myself available to the board whenever they need me, it’s their decision,” he said.”It’s important that, whoever it is, the community and employees give them a shot and understand that they’re their own person and they’ll have their own style.”
As part of his existing contract, Beneby will receive his final CEO performance-based incentive packages – annual and long-term – prorated for nine months, rather than the anticipated 12. Beneby has obtained 80% achievement for annual performance metrics this year and 79% of long-term. Those metrics include CPS Energy’s safety, customer satisfaction, environmental considerations, financial performance, electric reliability, and power plant reliability.
CPS Energy officials have not yet calculated the dollar amount these achievements will translate to, but the board approved the percentages on Monday.
The board also approved a measure, with no dollar amount attached, that will provide interim CEO Gold-Williams a monthly stipend as she takes on her interim role.
“We don’t really know how long this process is going to take,” Chavez said of finding a new CEO.
The board is committed to continuing initiatives started under Beneby’s tenure like the plan for a new or renovated headquarters and development of the EPIcenter building and programming on the Southside, she said, but it will be critical to get a new CEO hired to see those projects through.
“We will wait and focus on the process at hand, which is selecting a new CEO and engage that person into the process,” Chavez said. “It’s obviously very important to the whole decision making process and we need as much input (as we can get) from the person that’s going to lead the company.”
Beneby plans on staying in San Antonio and commuting/telecommuting to his new job into the foreseeable future.
“Our plan is to still live here, we like here (and) we’ve invested quite a bit in the trajectory of the city,” he said. “The goal is to stay here as long as we can – as long as its practical … my home might become the 737 (airplane) for awhile but that’s okay.
What attracted him most to his new position at NGPI was the ability to work with innovative alternative energy policy, practices, and technology – similar to that which he has fostered in San Antonio – at a global level.
“There just comes a point in time where you want to do more,” he said, noting that he had been offered many other positions while at CPS Energy. “The community we serve is defined, essentially Bexar County. And so I was keen to have an opportunity to broaden that scope.”
Each board member praised Beneby’s leadership over the past five years, including ex officio member Mayor Ivy Taylor.
“(San Antonio) will benefit from your labor for years to come,” Taylor said.
Beneby has brokered countless deals to ignite the local New Energy Economy, an initiative he began in 2011 and oversaw increased productivity and efficiency in the utility’s rank and file.
“I always thought that our mission was beyond delivering energy but also delivering a difference to the city,” Beneby said. “I think all the employees at CPS Energy are responsible for that.”
This story has been updated with details from afternoon interviews with Beneby and Chavez.
*Top image: Outgoing CPS Energy and CEO Doyle Beneby hugs Board Chair Nora Chavez. Photo by Scott Ball.