AGL Resources announced Thursday that John W. Somerhalder, former executive vice president of El Paso Corp. and president of El Paso’s gas pipeline group, will be its new president and CEO. Former CEO Paula Rosput Reynolds left the company in December to become president and CEO of Safeco Corp. (see Daily GPI, Dec. 8).

Somerhalder, 50, brings significant gas industry experience. He spent almost 30 years with El Paso and its predecessor entities rising through the ranks from engineer in 1977 to corporate executive. Since May 2005, he has continued to serve El Paso in an advisory capacity.

“Having managed multibillion enterprises, John has the business acumen and leadership skills to drive results and enhance performance throughout AGL Resources,” said Tom Bell, director and head of the search committee. “With extensive state and federal regulatory experience in multiple jurisdictions, he thoroughly understands the natural gas and energy industry.”

As president of the El Paso Pipeline Group, Somerhalder oversaw 3,600 employees at El Paso’s seven major pipeline companies, which included one of Atlanta’s largest gas transporters, Southern Natural Gas. He also oversaw the company’s 50% stake in Florida Gas Transmission and Great Lakes Transmission and El Paso’s interest in Southern LNG, which operates the Elba Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal near Savannah, GA.

“Being in the industry a number of years, I’ve watched AGL Resources grow,” said Somerhalder. “I have tremendous respect for the company with its year-over- year track record that is built on a foundation of talented leadership, an extremely strong business model, solid operations, and a well-thought out and executed strategic growth plan. I’m committed to build on the company’s record of success.”

During the search for a new president and CEO, D. Raymond Riddle, director since 1978 and chairman from 2000 to 2002, served as interim CEO and chairman. Riddle will now assume the role of nonexecutive chairman.

“John has a keen grasp of the gas and pipeline business and its implications on all of the energy policies and issues facing the states in which we do business as well as the entire country,” said Riddle. “I’m glad to have him on board to lead AGL Resources to the next level, building on our success as a multi-state, integrated energy company. He recognizes the need to invest in infrastructure and leverage assets to serve our customers and shareholders now and in the future.”

Over the last few years, AGL has grown from a sleepy little Atlanta-based utility company to a much larger East Coast utility holding company with six utility subsidiaries, including Atlanta Gas Light, Chattanooga Gas, Elizabethtown Gas, Elkton Gas, Florida City Gas and Virginia Natural Gas. Since 2001, its market capitalization has more than doubled to about $2.79 billion today from about $1.3 billion five years ago.

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