Xcel Energy invited Fritz Corrigan to join its board in December 2005. At the time, the veteran Cargill executive was busy preparing the ground for his successor at Mosaic Company, the Edina-based agricultural fertilizer company that had been formed by the 2004 merger of Cargill’s crop nutrition division and Illinois-based IMC Global. Mosaic was big enough to join the Fortune 500 the first year it was eligible, and Corrigan had a lot on his plate, including downsizing the new entity’s operations, refinancing its debt, and overseeing installation of a new accounting system to accommodate Sarbanes–Oxley and other public-company regulations.
“When I asked members of the Mosaic board if they had any objection to my talking to Xcel, they said, ‘No, it’s a good idea. Go for it and tell us what you learn,’” Corrigan recalls.
He joined the Xcel board in May 2006, eager to learn more about the energy industry. “Mosaic Company was a large user of energy and is pretty advanced in the field of co-generation,” Corrigan observes. “At our Florida facility, we routinely generate more than 300 megawatts of energy for our own operations. All of that gave me an interest in energy.”
Richard Kelly, Xcel Energy’s chairman and CEO, notes that “Fritz has a clear understanding of the policy issues and environmental, safety, and operational challenges that exist in the industrial sector, many of which are similar to those in the utility industry.” As a director, Kelly adds, Corrigan “is a champion for safety in the workplace, reliable service for our customers, and strong financial returns for our shareholders.”
For his part, Corrigan says that “if there’s something I feel strongly about—I feel strongly about everything, first of all, I was built that way—I feel strongly about employee safety and commitment to the environment,” Corrigan says. “I think Xcel has done a great job in both areas. But as always, we can do better. We have a program called ‘Journey to Zero’—zero being no accidents at all. We’re making good progress, and hopefully we’ll get there.”
In June 2007, five months after retiring from Mosaic, Corrigan was elected Xcel Energy’s lead director. Having previously sat on the board’s audit committee, he currently serves on its governance, compensation, and nominating committee, as well as its nuclear, environmental, and safety committee.
Now 67, Corrigan finds board service “a good way to stay active in business issues and hopefully add some value to the governance process of the company. I also enjoy the relationships with the other board members. They’re a bunch of really smart people; I try to keep up with them and be a worthy teammate.”
“One of the things that impresses me about Fritz is that despite his own personal success, he is humble and unassuming,” Kelly says. “He’s a director I can to turn to for advice when it’s time to make those challenging business decisions. I believe his fellow directors feel the same.”
Making Up for Lost Time
Xcel Energy’s board was Corrigan’s first; since then, he’s joined the boards of Clearwater Paper Corporation in Washington, Kansas-based Edenspace Systems, and the Twin Cities–based Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America.