Don Jordan

    Although his tenure as a dean among CEOs in the energy services business is long-standing, Don Jordan approaches new industry challenges with the enthusiasm of a fresh MBA grad. At the same time, his rich experience has shaped a practical outlook for the way he has handled the helm of Houston Industries (now Reliant Energy) for more than 20 years.
     When asked what it takes to operate in the deregulated environment that most of the domestic energy market is entering, Jordan says, "Excitement." He explains that deregulation is changing the energy industry dramatically. "The exact form it will take," he says, "is not totally clear." But it is apparent to Jordan that excitement is one of the essential ingredients to succeeding on the deregulated stage. If people are not already excited about the potential of their roles in the deregulating industry, "we have to make those jobs exciting," he says.
     This pragmatism shows through when Jordan answers a question about how the Y2K computer issue might affect the energy market, especially in keeping track of gas commodity futures trades and so forth. "That's a problem that should not have gone this far. Like other companies, we've spent millions just to maintain and upgrade an entire process without a return." For the record, though, Reliant Energy has been working on the Millennium Bug since 1996 and expects to complete the project by the end of the third quarter of 1999. "We realize that how our company prepares for the Year 2000 issue is critical to our shareholders and to our customers, and we are aggressively pursuing solutions," says Jordan.
     Jordan has resisted the urge to market prematurely or overpay on foreign acquisitions, most of which have been near his minimum bids. His 1997 acquisition of NorAm Eneregy is already realizing synergies. He waited until the unregulated U.S. generation market was ripe (with shortages looming), jumped in quickly and became profitable in the first year of participation.
     "We've tried to keep our powder dry until it was an appropriate time," Jordan said. Indeed, that is the case. Under Don Jordan's leadership Reliant Energy has become a diversified international energy service company with nearly four million electric and natural gas customers in the U.S. Reliant Energy also has built an international presence, acquiring ownership interests in electric utilities that serve more than nine million customers in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador. Over the next three years Don Jordan should pick-up a wealth of insight on the world energy market. As chairman of the World Energy Council for the next three years, he will have a bird's eye view of what is happening around the globe. Says Jordan of the WEC: "It is the only organization in the world that cuts across all energy lines: nuclear, oil, gas, electric, wind and water." Jordan plans to continue the mission of his predecessors to present a clear picture of the energy situation in the world, now and in the near future. "Energy sources are not the problem," he says, "I would like the Council to address the challenge of increasing energy production and effectively distributing it."