Leaders stress their merger to be a `marriage' of equals

Shattuck, Hay praise `complementary skills'


NEW YORK -- In every detail, down to their coordinated dark suits with red ties, the chief executives at Constellation Energy Group Inc. and FPL Group Inc. wanted to drive home the message yesterday that they're merging - merging - as complementary equals.

The scene at the companies' meeting with investment analysts at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, three hours after the deal was announced, provided the visual exclamation point. On the podium sat two top executives from each corporation, their logos - both blue and gray, coincidentally - forming the backdrop. On the huge screen to their right, a PowerPoint presentation showed puzzle pieces of equal size fitting together.

Everyone avoided the word acquisition. "Marriage," said Mayo A. Shattuck III, Constellation's chief executive.

"The combination of our complementary skills and strengths will be synergistic in the truest sense of the word," he told the audience of about 150 packing the tony Park Avenue hotel's Starlight Roof ballroom. Both companies think consolidation in the industry is inevitable, he said, "and we wanted to go out and pick our partner."

Lewis Hay III, FPL's CEO, said it was all about "creating a winning position."

"We both would have had to do something ... to truly be a winner," he said.

Shattuck and Hay, shepherded to the front of the dais for a staged handshake - two, in fact - before the speeches began, grinned and laughed as the cameras clicked. They sat together during the event with 32 rows of tables - almost all filled - stretching before them.

Over and over, they used the image of balance as they described the two companies that will, with shareholder and regulatory approval, become one.

One analyst asked who would be answering to whom.

"Lew is the CEO, and that is clear and should be clear," Shattuck said. "We talked from the start about our belief that one guy ought to be in charge."

The exhaustive effort to present the consolidation as one of equals owed much to Baltimore's long and tortured history with mergers: They rarely seem to work to the city's advantage.

Most of the deals have transformed national headquarters into regional or back offices, decreased corporate investment in charities and sapped the mover-and-shaker community that was so important to the city's redevelopment efforts in the 1950s.

Constellation is the only Fortune 500 company with headquarters in the city.

This time, Constellation's chief marketing officer promised, will be different.

"This is something that in no way, shape or form should scare Baltimoreans," said David H. Nevins, as analysts swarmed around the executives after the meeting. "It is not more of the same, in terms of an exit of a major corporation. It is in fact a major corporation, overnight, literally doubling its size."

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