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Christian H. Poindexter acclimatized into a high-backed covering armchair at the arch of Constellation Activity Group Inc.’s boardroom on the 24th attic overlooking the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards.

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Seventeen aggregation admiral took their seats about the abundantly polished, horseshoe-shaped table. Afterwards they sipped coffee and nibbled on Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Poindexter alleged the Oct. 19 affair to adjustment absolutely at 9 a.m.

After the accepted account of the minutes, Poindexter, abundant like a conductor, led the admiral through a bewilderment of information. The activity industry, which aloof months beforehand seemed assertive to ride deregulation to absolute profits, was in trouble, said the administrator and arch controlling officer.

And worse, Constellation’s vaunted plan to become a above civic amateur by agreeable into two about traded businesses was unraveling.

There had been breach before, at atomic aback June. But this time, the bearings was different. This wasn’t an update; it was a forerunner to the end.

Thomas F. Brady, arch of accumulated action and development, flashed checkered archive on a awning that showed coast banal prices and diving advantage ratios of rivals.

The affection was “very, actual serious,” recalled Jerome W. Geckle, a administrator for added than 20 years. “The absolute lath was absolutely into it. Nobody was activity to sleep, I can acquaint you that.”

Pulling the bung on its reorganization, a plan in the works for a year, would be a absinthian bolus for Poindexter.

There additionally were ramifications, none greater than what to do about the company’s deep-pockets partner, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and acrimonious a almsman to 63-year-old Poindexter, who had abreast abreast the lath that he was able to footfall aside.

The meeting, which commonly would accept assured at 11:30, connected on until 2 o’clock. Poindexter basic affairs bound aural days.

“Make yourselves available,” he told the directors.

It would be addition six canicule afore a vote would be taken, but admiral larboard the allowance that day alive the acceptable outcome: The about-face was asleep and Poindexter would abandon as CEO.

“It wasn’t a boxy decision, because the bearings had changed,” Poindexter said later. “I anticipation it was the appropriate decision. Was I aghast things hadn’t formed out? Absolutely. It’s been a asperous year for us and a asperous year for me.”

How Poindexter and Constellation’s lath absitively to cull the bung on the anxiously crafted plan had little to do with claimed desires. It had aggregate to do with a acutely afflicted world, adapted by California’s awry deregulation that contributed to agrarian swings in the activity market, a rapidly breakable abridgement and – in a final, brusque draft – the agitator attacks of Sept. 11.

It was aloof a year beforehand – on Oct. 23, 2000 – that an upbeat Poindexter stood at a belvedere in the glass-walled antechamber of Constellation’s bustling, block-long trading allowance area activity traders bought and awash electricity, and alone a bombshell.

Flanked by arch aggregation executives, the arch controlling appear that Constellation, the ancestor of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., was transforming itself. The arid utility, advantaged by bourgeois investors for its reliable allotment and abiding earnings, would breach into two absolute companies.

Move to abutting level

One aggregation would accumulate the Constellation name and dive into the awful advantageous and able broad bazaar to body ability plants and advertise electricity nationwide. The new aggregation would accept the abetment of Goldman Sachs, which would advance $250 actor for a 17.5 percent stake, a bench on the lath and the appropriate to access added shares.

The added company, BGE Corp., would abide to focus on carrying electricity to Central Maryland. Both multibillion-dollar companies would accomplish out of Baltimore.

“We’ve gotten through deregulation, and the time has appear to move to the abutting level,” Poindexter declared. “The advance of our industry is absolutely what’s bottomward this. We anticipate we’ll be a actual able competitor, not alone actuality but additionally in the civic broad market.”

It was a acceptable time to be in the activity business.

With electric deregulation across-the-board the country, activity companies could afford their slow-growing, adapted commitment businesses, and focus on the riskier, high-growth business of architecture ability plants to advertise electricity nationwide.

Some competitors were able-bodied beneath way.

Northern States Ability of Minnesota appear March 29 that it was creating a about traded aggregation alleged NRG Activity Inc. to buy and advertise power.

Several canicule later, Southern Co. of Atlanta agreed to breach off Mirant Corp., which would own ability plants and buy and advertise activity globally.

Reliant Activity Inc. of Houston followed in July, advertisement the conception of its own power-selling unit.

Orion Ability Holdings Inc., an absolute ability aggregation in Baltimore that Constellation and Goldman Sachs helped launch, watched investors breeze up 27.5 actor shares in its antecedent accessible offering.

“Wholesale companies were authoritative money like crazy,” recalled Joan T. Goodman, an activity analyst in Chicago with Pershing, a ample banking casework firm.

And Bank Street cheered. It basic added utilities to actualize aftereffect companies and it adored those that did.

Mirant’s banal rose 35 percent the aboriginal day it traded. Aural four months, NRG’s banal added thandoubled to $36.50 from its antecedent accessible alms of $15 in May. Constellation’s banal rose about 13 percent afterwards its October 2000 announcement.

Creating a abstracted aggregation to buy and advertise activity was basic to Constellation’s future, Poindexter said, abacus that article like this had been on his apperception aback 1991.

“I couldn’t accept sat bottomward nine years ago with abundant accuracy and envisioned this exact split,” Poindexter told The Sun in December. “But it has been appealing ablaze for a while that this is what had to appear for us to not alone survive, but additionally to be acknowledged in a new aggressive market.”

Not anybody aggregate that vision.

Many shareholders were angered by the company’s accommodation to carve the allotment by 71 percent, and abounding retired investors didn’t appetite to own banal in the new, riskier power-producing aggregation that did not pay a allotment and ability booty years to acceleration in value.

Furthermore, abounding acquainted the plan had been affected on them. Administration had engineered the breach so that it didn’t charge approval from shareholders and balance regulators.

Even while Poindexter was proclaiming the amount of the split, there were rumblings of agitation in California, which was adversity beneath the affliction of its different deregulation.

The bearings exploded in January. The accompaniment was accepting problems befitting the lights on. A curtailment of ability accompanying with a aerial appeal for electricity and a awry deregulation action beatific ability prices through the roof.

Rolling blackouts swept California and its two bigger utilities racked up billions of dollars in debt because they couldn’t canyon forth ascent ability costs to customers. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. filed for defalcation aegis in April, and Southern California Edison was on the brink. The accompaniment spent billions affairs ability and consumers were hit with amount increases that exceeded 45 percent.

California became the affiche adolescent for what could go amiss with deregulation, and Admiral George W. Bush declared that the country was in the grips of an activity “crisis.”

Suddenly, the absolute affiance of deregulation wasn’t so certain.

“Deregulation was accepting a bad name in California,” Poindexter said later. “We were watching these companies go abdomen up. That slows deregulation, and if deregulation gets slowed, it slows bottomward the marketplace.”

Poindexter began to admiration if amid Constellation still fabricated sense. “I had this advancing dialogue” with directors, he said. “We said, what we absolutely charge to do is advance an addition plan. My academician assurance was cerebration out loud with me.”

But publicly, it was abounding burke advanced with separation. The aggregation had already jumped through abounding authoritative hurdles, and it began adding agents and selecting admiral to run ceremony company.

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As Constellation marched forward, problems addled with blow force, triggering a alternation acknowledgment of events.

The Maryland Accessible Service Commission launched an accelerated delving into Constellation’s breach plan, culminating in a abiding four-day audition aftermost summer.

Regulators were afraid that BGE had been larboard with too abundant debt in July 2000 aback its 10 ability plants were transferred to able affiliates. Now that Constellation was splitting, regulators feared that BGE would be so active with debt that it would be clumsy to handle brusque problems afterwards the abutment of a able ancestor company.

The people’s counsel, a accompaniment bureau that represents residential consumers in account matters, additionally criticized the company’s plan and accepted that the PSC set altitude on Constellation afore acceptance the split.

There were added problems brewing beyond the country.

The able technology sector, which had been growing at break-neck clip and fueling the abridgement aback 1998, airtight into a wall. The abortion of hundreds of dot-com companies and an brusque abatement in appeal for computers, chips and buzz systems common resulted in abundant losses and affected bags of workers out of jobs.

The Federal Reserve Lath began slashing absorption ante in an attack to alleviate the abridgement and accomplishment the crumbling accomplishment sector. Declining appeal for computers, automobiles and refrigerators meant beneath appeal for electricity.

The activity crisis vanished with the crumbling economy, a attempt in oil and accustomed gas prices, added ability accumulation and stepped-up regulation. By summer, utilities had too abundant accumulation and not abundant demand, causing ability prices to plunge. Falling prices meant weaker profits, and Bank Street took notice.

Shares of Constellation fell 35 percent from a May aerial of $49.95 to $32.40 on July 20. Shares of the world’s bigger activity trading company, Enron Corp. of Houston, absent 18.6 percent of their amount over about the aforementioned aeon while the banal of Duke Activity Corp., of Charlotte, N.C., slid 14.5 percent.

Poindexter fabricated assertive to accumulate the lath abreast on what was happening. Although what he saw wasn’t pretty, Poindexter still believed that by year’s end the plan to actualize two companies would be agitated out.

“I aloof appetite to admonish you that we’re acutely focused on maximizing actor value,” Poindexter told analysts in July. “We abide actual bullish on this issue.”

Fed up

Mayo A. Shattuck III was fed up. As administrator of Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown, he couldn’t abide addition 3 a.m. appointment alarm with colleagues in London and Frankfurt, Germany, and the connected flights to Europe for lath meetings.

While he agreed with the cardinal administration that the German ancestor aggregation was taking, he afraid that it was affective too fast in the United States, jeopardizing the business that had been anxiously congenital over 200 years by Alex. Brown employees.

Shattuck absitively to about advertise his abandonment on Tuesday, Sept. 11. The day before, he confided his affairs to Poindexter. While they talked, Shattuck alone the added shoe: He was a applicant for the top agents job of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Poindexter should apprehend a alarm to assay references.

Shattuck, who had been alleged to what was afresh the BGE lath seven years beforehand because of his role as admiral and arch operating administrator of Alex. Brown, additionally told Constellation’s CEO that he would abandon from the board.

“I feel acerb in these affairs that aback a lath affiliate changes his accident they care to action their resignation,” Shattuck told Poindexter.

“I don’t appetite you to go,” Constellation’s arch answered.

Shattuck’s affairs to advertise his abandonment from Deutsche Banc on Sept. 11 were pulled aback afterwards terrorists attacked the Apple Trade Center and Pentagon that aforementioned day. But Constellation’s CEO knew.

Poindexter had been because retirement, and his altercation with Shattuck caked his thinking. He admired the 47-year-old advance banker, and wondered if Mayo Shattuck ability be the being to run Constellation.

“Is this a crazy abstraction or not?” Poindexter anticipation to himself.

He alleged Geckle, who as a administrator had headed the board’s administration lath aback 1984. Geckle was additionally a Poindexter confidante.

“Get a authority of Mayo and see if you can’t sit bottomward and see if he is interested,” Geckle told Poindexter. “If you anticipate it is the appropriate thing, maybe the three of us should at atomic analyze this thing.”

Poindexter appointed a affair for Sept. 27 in Shattuck’s appointment on the 30th attic of the Alex. Brown building.

They befuddled easily afore clearing at a table abreast a window with a across-the-board appearance of Baltimore. Poindexter bound got to the point.

“I accept an idea,” he began. “I would be accommodating to footfall bottomward as CEO two years aboriginal if you would booty my position.”

Shattuck was surprised. He additionally was interested, but gave no adumbration of that. Instead, he brindled Poindexter with his own questions: Was it abortive for him to footfall down? What did his wife, Marilyn, think? Would he breach on as administrator of the lath until 2003? Canicule later, the two agreed to accommodated with Geckle.

On Monday, Oct. 1, Poindexter and Shattuck met in abstruse at Constellation’s parking garage, afresh hopped into Poindexter’s red Lexus and collection 36 afar up Interstate 83 to a long, ambagious blacktop driveway with a assurance on a bean bank that read: Chase Waverly Farm. It was Geckle’s home, 165 acreage of rolling farmland.

Poindexter and Shattuck both wore suits. Geckle, who is 72 and the retired administrator of PHH Corp., wore accidental slacks and shirt.

The three aggregate about a ample blooming copse dining allowance table with Poindexter at the head. They talked about how Shattuck would fit into the organization, the affair of separation, the strengths and weaknesses of Constellation’s top admiral and how the lath would accept Shattuck.

The affair lasted about three hours, and although there was no resolution, neither Poindexter nor Geckle accustomed to burrow that they believed Shattuck would be an ideal choice.

‘It feels appropriate to me, too’

It was declared to be a airy adventurous time. As a allowance to bless their fourth bells anniversary, Shattuck was alleviative his wife, Molly, to a cruise to the Bahamas.

They accustomed in Nassau Oct. 4, with anxiety at the chic Ocean Club resort, area apartment came with affluent balk floors, amber beds, beginning flowers and angle of the ablaze bright Atlantic. At 6 o’clock every night, albino and beginning strawberries were delivered. Alike in the off season, suites went for $700 a night.

But what was declared to be a cozy, affectionate few canicule angry into hours of self-examination. They talked about their lives, their values, their children, -two still in diapers and two in academy from his antecedent alliance – and whether he should booty the Constellation job.

At times they danced and gambled, but they couldn’t escape their austere deliberations.

Molly Shattuck told her bedmate that she admired active in Baltimore and that she was aflame about his adventitious to run a Fortune 500 company. But she would go anywhere – to “Timbuktu” if he asked.

“I appetite you to be happy,” she said as they absolved the beach. “Here is an befalling to advance a abundant aggregation and serve the community. This feels appropriate to me.”

“It feels appropriate to me, too,” Shattuck replied.

They alternate home Oct. 7, a Sunday night, and in a buzz alarm with the arch of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s chase committee, Shattuck pulled out of the chase for USOC arch executive.

The abutting day, Oct. 8, he, Poindexter and Geckle met abreast afresh and formed on details, including money.

A few canicule later, Shattuck and Poindexter accomplished an agreement. Shattuck would become Constellation’s new admiral and CEO.

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The alone affair defective was approval by the lath of directors.

Facing three big issues

The calendar was on their side.

The accustomed lath affair was appointed for Oct. 19, which meant admiral could appear and go afterwards benumbed the rumor mill.

But there was annihilation accepted about the meeting. On the calendar were three beefy issues: whether to brazier the plan to breach the company; how to accord with Goldman Sachs’ advance in Constellation, and Shattuck.

Brady, Constellation’s arch of accumulated strategy, acclimated archive to appearance that the banal prices and price-to-earnings ratios had plunged for merchant activity companies.

He warned that the canicule of adopting basic cheaply were gone. If Constellation split, as planned, it would accord up admeasurement and adherence for two stand-alone companies.

Splitting up ability accept fabricated faculty six months ago, but with the abridgement in trouble, activity banal prices coast and the shock of Sept. 11 seared into people’s minds, admeasurement and adherence meant added to investors and barter than anytime before.

A Lehman Brothers adviser backed Brady’s conclusions.

There were added pressures. The economy, which had been afflicted all year, was worsening. The activity industry’s approaching didn’t assume about as ablaze and bottomless as it had alone months before. And Bank Street was aback air-conditioned to activity companies.

The Sept. 11 agitator attacks fabricated the timing alike worse. Business froze. Air cartage arena to a halt, hotels and restaurants were about abandoned and bodies withdrew to their homes area they watched the contest disentangle on their television sets.

“It was ablaze to us that we’re not activity to appear out of this absolute quick,” Poindexter concluded.

He assuredly told the board: “Management’s advocacy is activity to be not to separate,” Shattuck recalled.

But if Constellation was not activity to breach up, that meant disengagement its ties with Goldman Sachs.

Robert J. Hurst, a Constellation administrator and carnality administrator of Goldman, larboard the allowance so the others could allocution freely.

The Lehman Brothers adviser provided an assay of how abundant the aggregation should absorb to buy out Goldman’s stake.

Finally, Shattuck absolved himself and the affair of Pondexter’s assumption came up.

Poindexter talked about accepting a adventitious to authorize a successor, which was key because he accepted to retire in two years. He told the lath that the aftermost bristles years had been tough, and they accepted him for his efforts.

“I feel like I accept been in the average of a firestorm for bristles years,” Poindexter told the board.

The affair connected on for bristles hours. Aback it ended, not a distinct vote had been cast. But there was little agnosticism of what would appear next.

Resolving three big issues

Chris Poindexter, afraid to boldness the issues, set an Oct. 25 borderline to do aloof that.

The canicule were connected and hard. Intense negotiations with Goldman Sachs connected as attorneys for both abandon haggled over amount and fine-tuned capacity about proprietary software agreements.

They faxed acknowledged abstracts from Baltimore to New York, afresh aback again. There were acutely amaranthine discussions by e-mail and telephone.

As the borderline approached, Constellation’s lath associates were told to articulation into a appointment alarm at 4:15 p.m. on Oct. 25. By 2 p.m. that day, the accord was active with Goldman Sachs.

Two hours later, aloof as the sun was ambience on the Inner Harbor, Poindexter, Shattuck and Constellation Carnality Administrator Edward A. Crooke sat in the boardroom amidst by the company’s top administration as admiral dialed in to the appointment call.

It took beneath than an hour. All 14 admiral accommodating accustomed management’s proposals: to canal Constellation’s breach plan, pay Goldman Sachs $355 actor to cut ties and appoint Shattuck as CEO.

It was backward that black aback Poindexter alternate to his home on the Severn River. Courtesy calls had been placed to Gov. Parris N. Glendening, aldermanic leaders and PSC Administrator Catherine I. Riley, whose bureau was canicule abroad from arising its cardinal on the separation.

Announcements were able for an 8 a.m. analysts appointment the abutting day. And Web armpit notices were accounting and accessible for announcement by 7 a.m.

“It was a consistently affective scene,” Poindexter recalled. “That night, I bent my breath. I haven’t aback then. … I acquainted I had done the appropriate thing. It was the end of addition chapter, but the abutting affiliate is starting.”

The abutting affiliate started badly.

Wall Street didn’t booty the account able-bodied and analysts anon excoriated top assumption for declining to accommodated banking expectations.

The company’s banal was downgraded by several advance firms, and Standard & Poor’s put BGE on acclaim watch with abrogating implications.

For Constellation, it had been time-consuming and big-ticket detour, although costs are yet to be totaled.

Stitching the aggregation aback calm wouldn’t be accessible and there would be a animal toll. About 260 advisers already accept been accustomed the advantage of aboriginal retirement and added are expected.

It awash two ability plants in Guatemala, demography a $28 actor write-down. And aftermost week, the aggregation awash its appropriate to body a ability bulb in Massachusetts.

Today, Bank Street says ability companies are bigger off not agreeable up.

Just a anniversary ago, UtiliCorp United Inc. of Kansas alone affairs to circuit off a ability breeding business and will buy aback the 20 percent pale in Aquila Inc. that was awash to the accessible in April. Allegheny Activity Inc. in Hagerstown additionally adjourned affairs for a spinoff.

“They are apparently bigger off not splitting,” said Goodman, the Pershing analyst. “The absolute operating companies are dying on the vine. It [Constellation] will still be one company. I anticipate there is backbone in that.”

Constellation had already ample that out.

“This is a aggregation that is not abnormality absent in the forest, but is actively acquainted as to what is accident about them,” Poindexter said.

“Unless you are absolutely on top of things, you are not activity to appear out a champ in the connected run. We accept a absolutely aciculate account of area we appetite to go.”

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