Ben Fowke Takes the Reins as New Xcel CEO

Ben Fowke, who most recently served as president and chief operating officer, replaces Richard Kelly as chairman and CEO.

There's a new leader at Xcel Energy, Inc., Minnesota's largest power company and the number-one provider of wind power in the United States.

Ben Fowke took over as chairman, president, and CEO of the Minneapolis-based utility on Wednesday. He most recently served as president and chief operating officer.

Fowke, 53, previously held several executive positions throughout the company, including executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Fowke succeeds Richard C. Kelly, who in May announced his plans to retire. Kelly stepped down this month after 43 years with the company and its predecessors, including the last five as chairman and CEO.

“I follow a great leader in Dick Kelly,” Fowke said in a statement. “He deserves a great deal of credit and thanks for his leadership.”

A report by The Wall Street Journal notes that Fowke takes the helm at Xcel as the company continues to boost sales through higher electricity rates for many of its customers. But higher maintenance costs and other charges have recently offset revenue growth and could threaten Xcel's bottom line.

In its most recent quarter, the company reported earnings of $159 million, or 33 cents per share, compared to $140 million, or 30 cents per share, during the same period in 2010. Revenue for the quarter totaled$2.4 billion, up from $2.3 billion during last year's second quarter. The company reaffirmed its 2011 earnings guidance of $1.65 to $1.75 per share.

Xcel provides services to 3.4 million electricity customers and 1.9 million natural gas customers through operating companies in eight Western and Midwestern states. It is Minnesota's ninth-largest public company based on its 2009 revenue, which totaled $9.6 billion. The company reported $10.3 billion in revenue in 2010.