PG&E CEO Geisha Williams leaves abruptly

  • Push-out Score determined
  • After less than two years in the position
  • Praise and thanks for Williams
  • John Simon taking over in the interim
  • Search for a successor

(exechange) — San Francisco, California, January 14, 2019 — Geisha Williams, chief executive of PG&E, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by PG&E Corp. in a news release published on Sunday, January 13, 2019 and in a regulatory filing published on Monday, January 14, 2019, Geisha J. Williams leaves her post as Chief Executive Officer at the utility after less than two years in the role, effective immediately.

No company wants a CEO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months was 8.6 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 14 percent of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within two years, and 23 percent left the position within three years.

PG&E will undertake a search for a successor.

Geisha Williams’s duties will be taken over in the interim by John R. Simon, most recently Executive Vice President and General Counsel of PG&E Corporation, as Interim Chief Executive Officer.

“Tremendous challenges”

A reason for Geisha Williams’s sudden departure from the CEO post was not explicitly provided. Richard C. Kelly, Chair of the Board of PG&E Corporation, said: “While we are making progress as a company in safety and other areas, the Board recognizes the tremendous challenges PG&E continues to face.”

Precise information regarding Geisha Williams’s future plans was not immediately available.

“Departure/stepped down”

PG&E said: “PG&E Corporation … today announced that its Board of Directors is conducting a search for a new Chief Executive Officer following the departure of Geisha Williams.”

PG&E further said: “On January 13, 2019, the boards of directors of the Corporation and the Utility approved the following management changes, effective immediately: Geisha J. Williams stepped down from her position as Chief Executive Officer and President of the Corporation and resigned from the boards of directors of the Corporation and the Utility, and John R. Simon was appointed as Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Corporation.”

Share price decline

The management change announcement follows a decline in PG&E Corporation’s share price of 74 percent since October 2017.

Chaired by Richard C. Kelly

PG&E Corporation is chaired by Richard C. Kelly.

Kelly is the independent non-executive Chair of the Board of PG&E Corporation. He is retired Chairman and CEO of Xcel Energy Inc.

In the position of CEO since 2017

Geisha J. Williams has been the Chief Executive Officer and President at PG&E Corporation since March 1, 2017.

Prior to serving as CEO and President of PG&E Corporation, Williams was the Utility’s President, Electric (August 2015 to February 2017) and the Utility’s Executive Vice President, Electric Operations (June 2011 to August 2015).

In her role as President, Electric, Williams led all aspects of the Utility’s electric business, including power generation, nuclear operations, transmission, distribution, and substation operations, asset management and strategy, and energy procurement, as well as the enterprise-wide customer care organization.

She previously served as the Utility’s Senior Vice President, Energy Delivery (December 2007 to May 2011).

Before joining the Utility, Williams held officer-level positions leading electric distribution at Florida Power and Light Company (electric utility serving customers in Florida), as well as a variety of positions of increasing responsibility in customer service, marketing, external affairs, and electric operations at that company.

Williams currently serves as a director of the Edison Electric Institute and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, as trustee of the University of Miami and the California Academy of Sciences, and as director of the Center for Energy Workforce Development.

Williams has resigned from the Boards of both the holding company and the utility.


As a general rule, when a top leader announces to step down with no permanent successor in place, it is a sign that the move was unplanned and too early.

Push-out Score determined

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange gauges the likelihood that a manager was pushed out or felt pressure to leave the position.

exechange reached out to PG&E and offered the company the opportunity to comment on the score.

Read the full story in the exechange report 3.2019 ($).