Klappa to retire from WEC Energy

Leverett to become CEO in May

WEC Energy Group headquarters building
WEC Energy Group's Milwaukee corporate headquarters.

Gale Klappa will retire from his role as chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group on May 1, and will be succeeded by Allen Leverett.

Gale Klappa
Gale Klappa

Klappa, 65, will become non-executive chairman. Leverett, 49, has served as president of the company and its predecessor since 2013. He will also now be appointed to WEC’s board of directors.

Klappa recently led Wisconsin Energy Corp. through the $9 billion acquisition of Chicago-based Integrys Energy Group, which formed WEC Energy Group on June 29. With six utilities serving 4.4 million electric and natural gas customers in four states, WEC Energy Group is now one of the largest utilities – and one of the largest corporations – in the country.

He was named president of Wisconsin Energy Corp. in April 2003 and was appointed to its board of directors in December 2003. Klappa was named CEO in May 2004. He has served as chairman and CEO of WEC Energy Group since its inception.

Previously, Klappa served as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Southern Co. in Atlanta. Klappa is a 1972 graduate of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a bachelor’s in mass communications.

He has been active in the community, helping to form and serving as co-chairman of the Milwaukee 7 economic development organization. Klappa also has served as chairman of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and on the executive committee of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Additionally, he has served on the boards of the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Business Advisory Council, the United Performing Arts Fund and the United Way of Greater Milwaukee.

Klappa said in an interview this morning that his health is good, but he would like to step back from the 24/7 day-to-day duties of the company. He will continue to serve as a sounding board for Leverett and set the agendas for board meetings, and will also continue his various community activies, Klappa said.

Leverett was Klappa’s first recruit after he became CEO of Wisconsin Energy. The pair worked together for about seven years before their 13-year stint in Milwaukee together.

“The potential that I thought that Allen had to someday become CEO, I recognized many many years ago,” Klappa said.

Leverett joined Wisconsin Energy in 2003 as chief financial officer. In 2011, he was named president and CEO of We Generation, Wisconsin Energy’s power generation unit. In his role as president, he is also responsible for the business operations of the company’s utilities in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Leverett previously served as chief financial officer and executive vice president of Georgia Power in Atlanta. He holds a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and mathematics from Vanderbilt University, a master’s in electrical engineering from Stanford University and an MBA with a finance concentration from Auburn University.

He is a director of American Transmission Co. and a director and non-executive chairman of Church Mutual Insurance Co. Leverett serves on Alverno College’s board of trustees.

Leverett said he plans to make some additional leadership assignments between now and May 1.

“Gale does a lot now, I do a lot now, so we can’t just have a situation where Gale’s gone and we don’t make any other changes,” Leverett said. “What won’t change is really a focus on execution and delivery of results.”

“We delivered a decade of strong growth as we’ve modernized the energy infrastructure of the region – investing more than $10.5 billion since 2003 in our electricity and natural gas networks,” Klappa said. “And with our acquisition of Integrys last year, we’ve emerged as the leading electric and natural gas utility in the Midwest – known for exceptional reliability, customer satisfaction and financial discipline.

“Allen has been a key contributor to our success – first as chief financial officer, then as the leader of our power generation group and most recently as president of the parent firm. I’ve known and worked with Allen for more than 20 years. The depth of his experience, his management skills and his focus on execution make him the ideal person to lead our company through a time of continuing change in the energy industry.”

“I’m honored to be entrusted with the leadership of the company and with the opportunity to build on the strong culture of service and performance that Gale instilled,” Leverett said. “The company is very well-positioned. We have a talented and experienced management team. Our future is bright.”

WEC Energy has about 8,500 employees and about $29 billion in assets.

WEC has reduced its full-time employee count by about 300 during the integration of the two companies, and any other reductions would be through attrition, Klappa said.

“What I basically communicated to our board is I would sit down with them when I felt that we had everything on track,” Klappa said. “I’ve been very pleased with our post-acquisition work and with the progress that we’ve made.”

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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