After more than a decade leading Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state's largest power company, Eric Silagy is retiring.
Silagy, the chairman, president, and CEO of FPL, announced Wednesday
that he will be stepping down this year and passing the baton to Armando Pimentel, ex-CEO of NextEra Energy Resources, one of several subsidiaries of FPL parent company NextEra Inc.
The FPL chief's departure follows a tumultuous year in which the company was accused of hiring political consultants who allegedly orchestrated a plan to manipulate media coverage of FPL in Florida.
Pimentel will take over as chief executive next month, and Silagy's last day with the company will be in May after 11 years as head of the utility.
"We thank Mr. Silagy for his 20 years of dedicated service to our company, our customers and the communities where we do business and welcome Armando Pimentel back to NextEra Energy," FPL spokesperson Chris McGrath wrote in a statement to New Times
. "Armando has deep knowledge of our company and our culture and he will bring incredible discipline and industry experience to his role leading FPL."
Last year, FPL was at the center of intertwining public scandals involving consultants it had enlisted from the Alabama-based political consulting firm Matrix LLC.
In June 2022, news reports
detailed how Matrix consultants collected surveillance on Florida Times-Union columnist Nate Monroe after Monroe criticized the company's wooing of Jacksonville city council members. (FPL and Silagy denied involvement.) The following month, the Orlando Sentinel and Miami Herald
chronicled how Matrix covertly exerted control of a Tallahassee-based news site and used it to disguise FPL's narrative as fact and attack naysayers.
Around the same time, it was also revealed that Silagy had sicced his staff on then-State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, who filed a pro-solar bill in 2019.
A document leaked last July — one of hundreds cited in the bombshell Orlando Sentinel
report published alongside environmental news nonprofit Floodlight — revealed that Silagy had copied and pasted the text of former New Times
staffer Jerry Iannelli's story into an email, sent it to his minions, and tasked them with making Rodríguez's life "a living hell."
“JJR at it again," Silagy messaged two of his executives on January 7, 2019, three days after the New Time
s story was published. "I want you to make his life a living hell...seriously."
After Rodríguez filed the bill, he found himself at the center of a campaign to derail his 2020 run for re-election. The Sentinel
reported that Matrix employees were involved in a plan to run auto salesman Alex Rodriguez as a third-party candidate against the sitting senator and his Republican challenger, Ileana Garcia. The third-party Rodriguez garnered more than 6,000 votes; Garcia eked out a victory, defeating the incumbent Rodríguez by a mere 32 votes out of more than 215,000 cast.
Prior to being appointed president of FPL in 2011, Silagy was the company's senior vice president of regulatory and state governmental affairs. He also worked as FPL's chief development officer, managing solar, natural gas, and nuclear energy projects.
NextEra CEO John Ketchum, who has been named FPL's new chairman, commended Silagy's legacy in the press release announcing his departure.
"Eric is a passionate advocate for continuous improvement and under his leadership FPL has transformed into the nation's largest electric utility, providing our customers with the country's most reliable service with bills significantly lower than the national average," Ketchum said. "His commitment to putting customers first was on full display last year during hurricanes Ian and Nicole, where his dedication, commitment and compassion drove the FPL team to restore power in record time and quickly put the state of Florida back on its feet."
Under Silagy's tenure, FPL repeatedly secured the top spot as the most reliable utility in the country in PA Consulting's annual ReliabilityOne studies. The company also won customer service accolades, including consecutive J.D. Power awards for top residential service provider among southern U.S. electric companies in 2021 and 2022.
During NextEra's January 25 earnings call, Ketchum denied any link between Silagy's retirement and a potential Federal Elections Commission investigation into political operatives who worked for FPL and other powerful corporate clients.
In October, watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an FEC complaint alleging that the operatives created a secret campaign funding network that appeared to violate campaign finance laws.
“We’re not making a connection,’’ Ketchum said.
"When you think about all the challenges that he had to overcome, with the hurricanes and with high natural gas prices and inflation, and the supply chain, and the media allegations and all those things, I think it took a toll on Eric that year and gave me his retirement notice," Ketchum continued.
Alissa Jean Schafer, a research and communications manager at the Energy and Policy Institute, tells New Times
she finds the abrupt nature of Silagy's departure from the utility unusual.
She says utility customers and investors alike should be concerned by the news –– and that regardless of who leads the company going forward, accountability is critical.
“The early retirement of FPL CEO Eric Silagy certainly raises many questions,” Schafer says in a statement provided to New Times
As reported by the Miami Herald
, Silagy had close ties to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed him to the board of governors of the state university system and the board of Enterprise Florida, an economic development organization structured as a public-private partnership.
In November, Alabama Power president and CEO Mark Crosswhite announced his retirement, effective December 31, after leading the utility for more than eight years.
The announcement came one month before Floodlight and NPR reported that a handful of news outlets across Alabama and the Sunshine State had taken money over the years from Matrix LLC, allegedly in exchange for positive coverage of Alabama Power and FPL.