A private investigator was hired to spy on Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning in 2017 allegedly at the request of Alabama Power executives, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal.

Southern Company is the parent company of Alabama Power and various other utilities in other states.

"The allegations spilled out of a lawsuit filed in 2021 stemming from an acrimonious split between Joe Perkins and Jeff Pitts, who had worked together at an Alabama-based consulting firm called Matrix," the report said. "Pitts alleged in court filings that Perkins, at the direction of Alabama Power executives, had ordered surveillance of Southern executives to influence corporate decision-making."

About three months after the start of the investigation over the spying, Mark Crosswhite, former CEO of Alabama Power, announced plans to retire at the end of the year. 

Crosswhite said in a news release announcing his retirement he wanted to "spend more time with his family."

According to the outlet, Crosswhite had been a "serious contender" to succeed Fanning as Southern CEO, but the surveillance allegations and subsequent investigation "played a role in his decision to leave."

A Southern spokesman told the Wall Street Journal the spying allegations played "zero factor" in succession planning.

Multiple major Southern Company projects had "bled money" at the time, and Southern "began considering whether to consolidate certain functions of Southern's three utilities to save costs over time," the WSJ reported.

"Bain, a consulting firm, began exploring the potential benefits of consolidation, according to a person involved in the effort. Executives within Alabama Power were resistant to the idea, the person said," the report states. "Pitts alleged that Perkins and Crosswhite were concerned that consolidating resources, such as consulting and legal services, could result in job losses and potentially affect succession planning across the company. Pitts included what he said were handwritten notes from Perkins."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.

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