PG&E said that its chief executive, William “Bill” Johnson, will retire on June 30, the expected date of when the company emerges from its bankruptcy case linked to its role in a series of deadly Northern California wildfires.
William Smith, who joined PG&E’s board of directors in 2019, was named as interim CEO. He is a retired president of AT&T Technology Operations at AT&T Services, where he spent 37 years with the telecommunications service provider and its predecessor companies.
Johnson, the former chief executive of the Tennessee Valley Authority, joined the troubled utility in April 2019 to help lead PG&E out of bankruptcy after then CEO Geisha Williams abruptly stepped down in January 2019.
“I joined PG&E to help get the company out of bankruptcy and stabilize operations. By the end of June, I expect that both of these goals will have been met,” Johnson said in a statement. “As we look to PG&E’s next chapter, this great company should be led by someone who has the time and career trajectory ahead of them to ensure that it fulfills its promise to reimagine itself as a new utility and deliver the safe and reliable service that its customers and communities expect and deserve.”
PG&E was forced into bankruptcy in January 2019 as it was facing more than $30 billion in potential liabilities from catastrophic California wildfires in 2017 and 2018 that were linked to its equipment.
The company needs to exit bankruptcy by June 30 in order to be eligible to participate in a state-created wildfire fund that would help offset potentially massive liabilities incurred by utilities from wildfires.