Southern CEO Fanning Set to Step Down

Longtime Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning plans to announce his retirement, perhaps by the end of this year, stepping down after leading the company since 2010.

A Bloomberg report on July 29, citing “people familiar with the matter,” said the U.S. utility giant already has launched a search to find Fanning’s replacement. Bloomberg reported that a Southern Co. spokesperson said a decision has not been made with regard to the timing of Fanning’s exit.

Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Co. since 2010, is preparing to announce his retirement. Source: Southern Co.

Fanning turned 65 in March of this year. Southern has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for its executives, though Bloomberg reported that the company has extended that age limit for Fanning as he oversees the continued construction of a two-unit expansion of the Vogtle nuclear power plant.

Fanning in a call with investors on July 28 said both of the new units at Vogtle should enter commercial operation in 2023, after years of delays and cost overruns for what energy analysts now say is $30 billion-plus project, more than double the expansion’s original cost estimates. Vogtle is the only large-scale nuclear power construction project currently underway in the U.S.

Fanning told Bloomberg in an interview Thursday that he has considered a succession plan for his position, but that he hoped to remain at Southern until the Vogtle project is completed. “I have it as a personal aim to guide the company through the completion of Vogtle,” said Fanning.

The sources cited by Bloomberg in its report also told the news service that Fanning would likely remain with Southern Co. in some capacity.

In addition to leading Southern Co., Fanning has been chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and also of the Edison Electric Institute, the major U.S. utility trade group. Southern under his leadership has—like most U.S. power generators—gradually moved away from coal-fired generation, using more natural gas and renewable energy resources.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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