Southern Co. to promote Thomas Fanning to chairman, president and CEO

By Maria Saporta
Contributing Writer

David M. Ratcliffe, chairman, president and CEO of the Southern Co., announced Tuesday he will retire Dec. 1, and his successor will be Thomas A. Fanning, currently the company’s chief operating officer.

On Aug. 1, Fanning, 53, will become president of Atlanta-based Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), and then he will become the company’s chairman and CEO on Dec. 1.

“During his nearly 30-year career with Southern Co. and its subsidiaries, Tom has demonstrated the technical and financial capabilities and the strategic vision needed to guide this company during a period of unprecedented capital expansion and growth,” Ratcliffe said in a news release. “Moreover, his leadership and team-building qualities will be crucial assets as he navigates a challenging, evolving energy landscape.”

Ratcliffe has been one of the top civic leaders in the state, having served as chairman of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Research Alliance and the Commerce Club.

Fanning joined the Southern Co. in 1980 as a financial analyst. Since then, he has held officer-level positions in the areas of finance, strategy, international business development and technology.

Prior to becoming executive vice president and COO in 2008, he was Southern Co.’s chief financial officer. Fanning also served as president and CEO of the company’s Florida subsidiary, Gulf Power, and CFO of both Georgia Power and Mississippi Power.

Ratcliffe became CEO of the Southern Co. in 2004, succeeding Allen Franklin. Both Ratcliffe and Franklin had served as president of Southern Co.’s largest subsidiary — Georgia Power — before becoming CEO of the parent company.

The succession pattern this time around is a bit different, partly because Georgia Power CEO Michael Garrett, 60, and Ratcliffe, 61, are so close in age.

Ratcliffe also made several other announcements that give some indication on the future leadership of not only Southern Co., but its subsidiaries.

W. Paul Bowers, 53, currently Southern Co.’s chief financial officer, has been named chief operating officer of Georgia Power. Bowers will oversee that company’s operations, customer service, financial, legal, external affairs and nuclear development functions. He will remain an executive vice president of Southern Co. and continue to serve on the Southern Company management council.

Bowers’ new role places him in position to succeed Garrett, whenever he decides to retire, as Georgia Power’s president and CEO.

Art P. Beattie, 56, has been named executive vice president and chief financial officer of Southern Co., where he will oversee the company’s accounting, finance, tax, investor relations, treasury and risk management functions.

Anthony J. Topazi, 60, has been named executive vice president and chief operating officer of Southern Co., succeeding Fanning. In this role, Topazi will have responsibility for Southern Company Generation, Southern Power and Southern Company Transmission.

Edward Day, VI, 50, will succeed Topazi as president and CEO of Mississippi Power, which provides retail electric service to approximately 200,000 customers across the southeastern region of the state. In addition, the company sells wholesale power to multiple electric power associations and cooperatives in Mississippi.

Southern Co. has 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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