Future of Avista sale unclear after Hydro One CEO and board ousted in political shakeup

The future of Avista’s sale to Hydro One was unclear after the Canadian utility’s CEO was ousted Wednesday by Ontario’s new premier, and the entire board of directors submitted resignations. 

The Toronto-based utility had planned to purchase Avista in a $5.3 billion deal expected to close later this year.

Premier Doug Ford, who took office June 29th, campaigned on a platform to replace Hydro One CEO Mayo Schmidt and the utility’s board of directors, channeling customers’ anger over high electric bills amid what Ford said was excessive executive pay. Under an agreement between Ford’s government and Hydro One, Schmidt retired and the board of directors resigned and will be replaced.

The province of Ontario, Hydro One’s largest shareholder with a 47 percent stake in the utility, has the ability to remove the board of directors.

Avista issued a short statement expressing surprise at Schmidt’s retirement, but didn’t comment on the sale.

For Avista’s sale to go through, the deal must win approval from regulators in states where Avista operates. Montana and Alaska have green-lighted the move, while decisions are pending in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Avista says it will continue to move forward with the states’ regulatory review.

Avista and Hydro One announced plans for the merger in July 2017, and the former Washington Water Power would keep its Spokane headquarters and operate as a subsidiary of Hydro One. (Spokesman-Review)

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