Westinghouse's incoming CEO resigns

| Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jim Ferland turned in his resignation to Westinghouse Electric Co.'s board of directors on the same weekend that he was supposed to become the nuclear energy company's new chief executive.

Cranberry-based Westinghouse announced Ferland's departure on Tuesday, but officially gave no reason for it.

Ferland's resignation comes as a surprise.

"It was a personal decision," Westinghouse spokesman Scott Shaw said, and it had nothing to do with two German utilities' cancellations last week of plans for nuclear power plants in the United Kingdom.

Board Chairman Shigenori Shiga will be interim CEO, with Chief Operating Officer Ricardo Perez keeping his present duties while helping Shiga during the search for a new president and CEO.

Shaw said Perez is a candidate to become CEO. Perez was unavailable for comment.

Westinghouse and affiliates could have made up to $6 billion from the deal in the United Kingdom. Shaw said Ferland didn't leave the company over growing apprehension surrounding the nuclear industry since an earthquake rocked the Fukushima Daiichi complex in northern Japan in March 2011.

Reactors damaged at the Japanese site weren't Westinghouse designs.They were supplied by General Electric Co., Hitachi and Toshiba Corp., which became Westinghouse's majority owner in 2006.

Shiga became board chairman in 2010 and previously was Toshiba's chief coordination officer since the Westinghouse acquisition. Ferland and Shiga couldn't be reached for comment.

One industry expert who declined to be named said Westinghouse's vision of itself as a technology leader that licenses nuclear designs worldwide, while working to develop better ones, might have moved out of sync lately with Toshiba's vision.

The Japanese company reportedly hasn't met Westinghouse's expectations for investments in research and development, the expert said. Toshiba now might view Westinghouse as just one part of its nuclear division, which is relatively small, and believe it may have overpaid for its $5.4 billion stake in the company, the expert said.

A Toshiba spokesman could not be reached for comment.

In January, Westinghouse announced that Ferland and Perez would succeed Aris Candris as of April 1. Candris was with the company for 37 years and was CEO for more than three years.

Ferland previously was president of Westinghouse's Americas region, and Perez was operations president. The two were to make up a newly formed executive office for Westinghouse.

Shaw didn't know whether Ferland submitted his resignation on Saturday or Sunday but said the board accepted it. Shaw said he has no information about a severance package for Ferland.

Ferland began his second stint at Westinghouse in August 2010. He worked for the company for six years, becoming vice president of field services. He then spent three years as senior vice president of utility operations for electric utility PNM Resources in Albuquerque, N.M.

Westinghouse said it supplies products and technologies to about 60 percent of the U.S. nuclear fleet.

Its "advanced passive" AP1000 reactor is being built in China, where the company won a $5.3 billion contract in 2007. The first two of the four reactors there are expected to come online next year.

Utilities in the United States also have chosen the AP1000 design for four reactors that they want to build at power plants in Georgia and South Carolina.

Westinghouse employs 5,100 people in Western Pennsylvania, mostly at its headquarters campus in Cranberry.

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