Nov 29 (Reuters) - Duke Energy Corp said on Thursday that its chief executive would step down in 2013, and it announced a settlement with North Carolina over the company's leadership after it took over Progress Energy.
The dispute began when Duke Chief Executive Jim Rogers assumed control of the combined company after the $18 billion purchase closed in July, even though Bill Johnson of Progress had long been slated to take the helm.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) held hearings, and in August Rogers said that he had started settlement talks with the regulator.
The parties, including North Carolina public staff and the NCUC, agreed that the settlement announced on Thursday did not represent an admission or acknowledgement of illegal or improper acts by the company, Duke said in a statement.
In a separate statement released at the same time, Duke said that Rogers, who has been CEO since 2006 and was the Cinergy CEO for 11 years before it became part of Duke, will retire by the end of 2013, when his employment contract expires.
The settlement announcement did not explicitly mention the departure of Rogers, but it said that a special board committee would be created to oversee selection of a successor to Rogers.
The committee will also help search for two new board members, after a pair resigned in late July in protest against the ousting of Johnson.
The purchase of Progress created the United States' largest power utility, but the CEO decision sparked outrage in North Carolina, the company's biggest market.
The settlement on Thursday must be approved by the NCUC, which sets profit margins of power utilities in the state.
Other commitments by Duke in the settlement include maintaining at least 1,000 employees in Raleigh, North Carolina, and guaranteeing certain fuel and fuel-related cost savings for customers in the state.
There are also some executive changes that include moving Lloyd Yates, executive vice president for customer operations, into the position of executive vice president for regulated utilities, and appointing a new general counsel.
Duke will also need to retain the former general counsel of Progress to advise it for two years on regulatory and legislative matters in North Carolina, the company said.