John W. Somerhalder II, who guided El Paso Corp.’s one consistently profitable business in the past four turbulent years — the natural gas pipeline unit — will leave the company effective April 30, the company said Wednesday. No reasons were given for his departure.

Somerhalder, an executive vice president who has served as president of the pipeline group since 1999, previously was president of El Paso’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline. Somerhalder and his unit managed to remain above the fray as the company was hit by investigations and shareholder criticism in 2002 and in 2003, remaining when most of the company’s top brass was ousted (see NGI, May 19, 2003).

“El Paso’s employees, stakeholders, and its board of directors are grateful to John for his 27 years of service to the company,” said CEO Doug Foshee in a written statement. “Over the past 10 years, El Paso has created the premier natural gas pipeline franchise in North America, and John has been instrumental in that success. On March 17, John and his team provided a detailed outlook for our interstate pipeline operations, and the future of this business continues to be excellent.”

Upon Somerhalder’s departure, the presidents of El Paso’s three regional pipeline groups will report to Foshee.

“I want to thank my fellow employees for their hard work and support during my career at El Paso,” said Somerhalder. “I also want to thank our customers and business partners. It has been very rewarding to work with you, and I will leave you in good hands.”

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