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Friday, June 11, 2021

Marion County approves resolution opposing corporate break-up of Duke Energy

Marion County Commissioners are seeking support from Governor Ron DeSantis to oppose a corporate break-up of Duke Energy.

During the Tuesday, June 1 meeting of the Marion County Board of County Commissioners, commissioners approved a resolution that opposes the breakup of Duke Energy and asks the governor and state for support.

“The Marion County Board of Commissioners hereby opposes the breakup of Duke Energy as proposed by the activist investor Elliott Management,” reads the resolution.

According to a May 17 press release from Duke Energy, Elliott Management, a hedge fund group, proposed a “double-spin-off” of both the midwest and Florida utilities that might have a negative impact across the board.

“This ‘shrink-the-company’ strategy that underlies all of Elliot’s proposals runs counter to the strategic direction of the entire industry at a time when scale is needed to efficiently finance the company’s unprecedented capital investment and growth opportunities” reads the press release.

According to corporate records, Duke Energy currently employs around 100 workers and provides nearly $3.5 million in property taxes to Marion County. The company says it employs over 3,700 workers across the state of Florida.

In their resolution, Marion County Commissioners support Duke Energy in the belief that setting up “smaller, independent utilities” will require considerable new costs and will “reverse a decade of cost cutting efforts” that might put pressure on utility rates without any “tangible benefit to customers.”

Duke Energy and its Board of Directors have maintained the same position since July 2020, when the hedge fund began submitting a series of proposals. According to the company, the board “reviewed their proposals in depth and determined that they are not in the best interests of the company, its shareholders and other stakeholders.”

Commissioners agreed and lent their support.

“I’m in support of making our stance that we would support Duke Energy staying as a whole entity based on the resources they are able to provide us as they are today. Otherwise, there’s a whole lot of loss that Marion County could sustain,” said Commissioner Michelle Stone.

“I agree,” said Commission Chairman Jeff Gold.