El Paso Corp. announced Friday that Ralph Eads III, executive vice president, who presided over the company’s unregulated merchant energy and production businesses, left the company effective the end of December 2002 to pursue other opportunities.

Eads, 42, joined the company in 1999 as executive vice president charged with growing El Paso’s developing gas marketing and power generation businesses. He had oversight of the merchant energy functions when that unit bid on and won 1.3 Bcf/d of firm capacity on El Paso Natural Gas that had been turned back by California utilities (see NGI, Feb. 21, 2000).

The 15-month period of the capacity contract, which started March 1, 2000, overlapped the high-priced western energy crisis, effectively making El Paso the target of much of California’s ire and multiple regulatory and legal complaints. The case challenging the pipeline affiliate’s use of that capacity is still before FERC (see NGI, Dec. 9, 2002).

El Paso said Eads’ departure follows management changes announced in September 2002 and the company’s announced intention to exit the energy trading business.

Prior to joining El Paso, Eads was a managing director and co-head of the energy group at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, and was credited with being a key advisor to El Paso on its mergers with Tenneco Energy and Sonat. He had been involved in the energy investment banking business for more than 15 years.

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