Early on in life, James E. Rogers was a self-described "long haired" consumer advocate who spent a good deal of his time fighting utility companies over rate increases.

It's no small irony today, then, that Rogers finds himself as the chairman and chief executive officer of Cinergy Corp., Cincinnati's electric and natural gas company. It's under his leadership that the utility has claimed a 191 percent total shareholder return in the past decade. And it's under his leadership that the company will merge with Duke Energy in mid 2006, pending regulatory approval, in a $9-billion deal that will leave Rogers in charge of the combined operations.

"We're an industry that is undergoing a great transformation," he notes, almost understatedly.

Rogers is certainly no stranger to transformation. The fast-changing road that took the 58-year-old Southerner from his roots in Danville, Kentucky, all the way to the CE'™s office, includes numerous career stops. "I've had difficulty holding a job," he jokes of his varied resume. Rogers worked in a funeral home while attending Emory College in Atlanta, then somewhat naturally segued into writing obituaries for the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.

His three-year stint as a newspaperman — which included covering such beats as crime and the federal courts - has served him well in the chief executive's office, he says today.

"The thing I learned in that job is the value of simple, clean conversation as well as the ability to organize facts in a clear way," Rogers observes. "Newspapers taught me a lot about brevity and how to communicate."

Other stints along the Rogers' career path included law school at the University of Kentucky, law clerking for the Supreme Court of Kentucky, rising up to partner status in the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C., assistant attorney general for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, various roles at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and eventually an executive vice president's job at Enron Gas Pipeline Group (back in the 1980s, well before the word Enron became a dirty word). By 1988, Rogers was out of Enron, joining PSI Energy, Inc., of Indiana as chairman, president and chief executive officer.

A decade ago, PSI merged with Cincinnati Gas & Electric to form Cinergy, and Rogers leapt into his current role. As 2006 progresses (and pending shareholder meetings in February, according to Cinergy spokesperson Steve Brash), a new corporation will emerge. "The merger of Duke and Cinergy is occurring at a time of great uncertainty, but also great opportunity in our industry."

Assuming the Cinergy merger with the Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy goes through, "We will own and operate a strong portfolio of utility businesses with 3.7 million retail electric customers and 500,000 retail gas customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana," says Rogers.

Currently, Cinergy operates two core businesses: Regulated (providing electricity to a 25,000-square-mile service territory) and commercial (the marketing and trading of energy commodities). The company's regulated public utilities serve 1.5 million electric customers and about 500,000 gas customers in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Beyond the merger, Rogers points to his own Big Three among the many changes on the landscape: A restructuring of utility regulation in some states, including Ohio; escalating coal and natural gas prices, and significant requirements for reducing environmental emissions on the burning of coal.

Speaking from his office in the executive labyrinth on the 30th floor of the company's highrise headquarters on Fourth Street, Rogers addresses a question as to his leadership style: "I think I've always had a fairly clear vision, and am passionately in love with what I do." Labeling himself both laid-back and relentless, he adds, "I'm easy on people and hard on issues."

"Our business is running with 20 percent fewer people than nine years ago, but I've never laid anybody off," the CEO says, pointing out all reductions came from attrition and early retirements. Cinergy employs 7,600, down more than a thousand from just a few years ago.

"You can honor the people of the company while still streamlining."

The company, in fact, has been named by Working Mother magazine as one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" for seven consecutive years. Cinergy has also been named to the Dow Jones World Sustainability Indexes, an international ranking for excellence in social, economic and environmental leadership. The global indexes track corporate citizenship performance, and Cinergy is one of only three American utility companies, and 16 in the world, to be so honored. The indexes are intended to provide asset managers with objective benchmarks to manage sustainability portfolios.

"What I love about this business are the public policy issues, our energy policy and issues around environmental matters, which is probably our biggest challenge. How do you provide reliable service, keep jobs and at the same time, achieve your environmental goals?" Unprompted, Rogers begins to tick off all the nasty emissions that are byproducts of burning coal — C02, sulfur this, oxide that. He points out the some 30 million tons of coal burned by Cinergy last year. He talks of global warming issues and greenhouse effects. He sounds like an unrepentant tree-hugger.

Little wonder Rogers is currently the chairman of the Environmental Policy Committee of the Edison Electric Institute. Critics, of course, would point out he has consistently favored profits for the stakeholders over the environment, when those two interests collide. Supporters, on the other hand, would point out that looking out for investors is Rogers' job, and that he has offered more support for Clean Air Act amendments than most energy chieftains, prompting the New York Times to label him a "new breed" of utility executive.

"We are always striving to make decisions to meet the demands of our customers today, but at the same time, make environmentally responsible decisions for future generations." Rogers speaks to his own "grandchildren's test," that he makes each corporate decision by factoring in whether - in 30 years - his six grown-up grandkids will agree with the decisions he's making today that impact the ecology of the year 2035.

While anybody who runs a natural gas concern would hesitate to use the word "explosive" in describing its growth, that's certainly an accurate descriptor. "What we've done is really built our natural gas business," says Rogers of the division. Cinergy now serves 200,000 wholesale natural gas customers and distributors around the country.

Another corporate effort, Cinergy Solutions, contracts to operate the energy components of plants owned by such firms as Procter & Gamble and General Electric. Rogers says it might surprise some people "that we are paid to help lower utility costs. Yes, we are in the business of helping people reduce their energy costs."

There's a new wrinkle on the local horizon, as well. "We are using our existing power lines to deliver cable and phone," he notes. The experiment in Cincinnati's Hyde Park neighborhood "is a rather unique use of our lines," and suddenly puts Cinergy in competition with cable TV, broadband providers and telephone companies. The concept of being able to plug your computer into any existing power outlet, and suddenly accessing the world wide web, hints of a mighty change afoot.

Again, this theme of transformation. Something Jim Rogers — and Cinergy - know a good deal about.