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Duke, Progress merger complete, CEO abruptly resigns

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CHARLOTTE, NC (John Downey/Charlotte Business Journal) -

In a surprise move, the board of Duke Energy Corp. has appointed Chief ExecutiveJim Rogers as CEO following the company's merger with Progress Energy Inc.

The plan had been for Progress CEO Bill Johnson to take over, with Rogers becoming executive chairman. Instead, Johnson has left the company. Charlotte-based Duke (NYSE:DUK) gave no explanation in its announcement Tuesday morning of the sudden change.

Rogers, who also retains his title as chairman of the board, will join lead director Anne Maynard Gray on a conference call at 8:30 a.m. to talk about the merger.

Johnson, reached at his home this morning, declined to comment.

In the prepared release, Gray has little to say about the decision.

"Having served as CEO of Duke and its predecessor companies for more than 23 years, Jim Rogers is well-suited to lead the integration effort and to drive our combined businesses forward," she says. "The board of directors looks forward to working with Jim and the rest of the executive team to enhance our position as a utility with financial strength and a greater ability to meet the needs of our customers."

Regarding Johnson, she says only, "Bill Johnson has been instrumental in helping us close the merger with Progress Energy, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

Spokesmen for Duke declined to comment on the change. Duke and Progress, which was based in Raleigh, no longer have separate corporate spokesmen.

The merger was completed following South Carolina regulators' approval of part of the deal Monday. When the merger was announced in January 2011, the deal was valued at $26 billion — about $13.6 billion in stock and more than $12 billion in Duke's assumption of Progress' debt. Duke's stock has increased in value since then, and the deal is now valued at $32 billion.

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