RENO - The man who led Sierra Pacific Resources through the mid-'90s will again head up the large utility holding company.
Sierra Pacific Resources' board of directors announced Wednesday that Walter M. Higgins has been named chairman, president and chief executive officer.
Higgins, 55, served from 1994 to 1998 as chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer.
Since January 1998 he has served as chairman and chief executive officer of AGL Resources Inc. in Atlanta, Ga. AGL Resources is the holding company of Atlanta Gas Light, one of the nation's largest natural gas distribution companies.
Prior to joining Sierra Pacific Resources in 1993, Higgins was president and chief operating officer of Louisville Gas & Electric Co. He joined LG&E in 1991 after serving nearly 14 years with Portland General Electric Co. in Oregon, where his last position was that of senior vice president.
"We're delighted to welcome Walt Higgins back to Sierra Pacific and the West," said James R. Donnelley, acting chairman of the board. "During his tenure at Sierra Pacific, Walt established himself as a strong, well-respected leader with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, our major customers, public officials and employees. He is the best person to guide our company through the exciting and challenging times that lie ahead as the utility industry undergoes significant change."
Higgins will begin his new duties at Sierra Pacific immediately. His primary office location will be Las Vegas.
Higgins will fill some of the void left by the recent resignations of two top Sierra Pacific Resources executives.
On April 19, Malyn K. Malquist resigned as the president and chief operating officer for Sierra Pacific Resources and president of both Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Nevada Power Co. He joined Sierra Pacific Resources in 1994 as senior vice president and chief financial officer.
Michael R. Niggli resigned July 21 as chairman and chief executive officer of Sierra Pacific Resources. He was named to the post in July 1999 after having served a year as president and CEO of Nevada Power, based in Las Vegas, Nev.
Noting that Sierra Pacific Resources is currently in the process of acquiring Portland General Electric from Enron Corp., Donnelley said Higgins' experience both at Sierra Pacific Resources and Portland General Electric will be a major asset.
"Walt's unique background and experience will be helpful with respect to that transaction," Donnelley added.
Sierra Pacific Resources is a holding company whose principal subsidiaries are Nevada Power, the electric utility for southern Nevada, and Sierra Pacific Power, the electric utility for most of Northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe area of California and a natural gas and water distributor in the Reno-Sparks area. Other subsidiaries include the Tuscarora Gas Pipeline Co., which owns 50 percent interest in an interstate natural gas transmission partnership and Sierra Pacific Communications, a telecommunications company.
In preparation for the deregulation of electric utility monopolies in Nevada, the holding company has placed its power generation facilities on the auction block and planned for a tranformation to a electrical transmission and distribution company.
However, dissatisfaction with how state regulators planned to implement the Nevada Legislature's deregulation law led Sierra Pacific Power and Nevada Power to file federal suits in March to block the deregulation plans. Sierra Pacific Resources blamed much of the 50-percent drop of its stock price on investor concerns about deregulation.
Monday, Sierra Pacific Resources reported a net loss of $20.2 million for common stock for the quarter ended June 30, 2000.