The departure of El Paso Electric’s chief executive officer will have no effect on the upcoming sale of the utility to a private equity firm, officials say

Mary Kipp, who has been at El Paso Electric since 2007 and CEO since 2015, announced her departure from the company last week. She’s stepping down to take a position at Puget Sound Energy in Washington state, and her last day with El Paso Electric is Aug. 1.

“I love El Paso, but I’m also ready for this change and I think the company is ready for some new leadership,” Kipp told El Paso Inc.

Kipp’s announcement comes about a month after she announced El Paso Electric would be sold to JP Morgan’s Infrastructure Investments Fund for about $4 billion. The sale means El Paso Electric (NYSE: EE) would no longer be publicly traded.

Adrian Rodriguez, El Paso Electric senior vice president and general counsel, will succeed Kipp as interim CEO. Kipp said the company’s new owner will make the final decision on the permanent CEO.

Rodriguez was born and raised in the borderland and is a graduate of Eastwood High School. He is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law and Harvard University. He’s been at El Paso Electric since 2013 and was appointed as an officer of the utility and general counsel in 2017, according to a news release.

“Even when I was a kid, my grandmother and I would take the bus Downtown and she’d pay all the bills, including El Paso Electric,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez added that he wants the utility to continue to have a good relationship with its employees and the community.

“It doesn’t matter who the CEO is so long as we’re providing our customers, employees and the community with a good partnership,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez’s first order of business will be guiding the 118-year-old utility through the sale to JP Morgan’s Infrastructure Investments Fund.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2020, pending shareholder and regulatory approval. El Paso Electric serves 428,000 customers in West Texas and Southern New Mexico.

The fund has agreed to pay $68.25 cash per share to buy 40.7 million outstanding shares of El Paso Electric stock. That’s 17% above the May 31 closing price.

“Adrian has consistently prioritized community service in his hometown of El Paso, and his knowledge of our operations and our culture make him a natural choice to take on this responsibility,” Charles Yamarone, chair of the El Paso Electric board, said in a statement.

Kipp said executives with JP Morgan’s Infrastructure Investments Fund, also known as the IIF, have expressed that they have confidence in El Paso Electric’s leadership team despite her departure.

“When I told the IIF I was leaving, they expressed they were sorry to see me go and that they would’ve liked me to lead the company into the future,” Kipp said. “But they also expressed they know we have a lot of depth in our leadership team and expressed a lot of confidence in Adrian.”

Rodriguez’s salary will be bumped up to a base of $400,000, with the opportunity for a bonus worth 55% of his pay. He will replace Kipp on the El Paso Electric board of directors, becoming one of three El Pasoans who sit on the board.

Elaina Ball, El Paso Electric senior vice president and chief administrative officer, will become the utility’s chief operating officer. Ball has been with the company since April 2018.

Kipp said she will miss El Paso Electric and the community but that she’s looking forward to being in Washington, where she will be closer to family. She added that she’s interested in Washington and the Pacific Northwest’s zero-carbon initiatives.

Puget Sound Energy, where Kipp is headed, has a goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2040. Kipp will become president and CEO of the 150-year-old utility.

Kipp was the first woman to lead El Paso Electric in the utility’s 118-year-old history. Rodriguez will be the first Latino to lead El Paso Electric.

“That makes me really happy not only for Adrian but for our entire community and our employee base,” Kipp said.

Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.