When the sale of Constellation Energy Group to Chicago-based Exelon Corp. was announced last April, Calvin G. Butler Jr. was in Baltimore, ready to build support and win over critics.
Butler, 42, Exelon's senior vice president of corporate affairs, took up residence at Spinnaker Bay apartments in Harbor East for almost a year while he served as the company's eyes and ears in Maryland.
He met with state and city officials, business leaders and nonprofits, including those skeptical about the deal's benefits for consumers and Baltimore.
The $7.9 billion merger closed last month. While Butler is back in Chicago, he will continue to spend time in Baltimore, where Exelon will merge its retail energy business with Constellation's. The business is expected to be the combined company's growth engine, though the deal will likely result in the elimination of 630 positions companywide due to job overlaps.
The Baltimore Sun recently spoke with Butler about his role in pushing through the merger, Exelon's plans as Baltimore's newest corporate citizen, and the headquarters tower to be built at Harbor Point.
What was your role as Exelon's point man in Maryland for the merger?
My primary role was to introduce Exelon to the community — policymakers, regulators, business community, not-for-profits and the like to tell our story about why we thought the merger was not only beneficial for our shareholders but also for Maryland and the city of Baltimore.
On the ground, if there was any question, I wanted someone to have a place to call to [get an] answer [to] that question. I didn't want any speculation. … I tried to be everywhere, to speak to groups no matter how small or big. To dispel rumors. To be the face of the company out there. To say who we are.
What kind of reception did you get?
It depended on the audience. As I always say, it's much harder to be rude to a person than a company. Everyone was receptive. We had active debate. Depending on the organization, the debate centered around energy efficiency, low-income customers or [charitable] contributions.
They were active conversations. And when we had areas of disagreement, we committed to work together going forward.
What about critics?
I specifically targeted them. I wanted to know what were the concerns. If I didn't know the concerns, I couldn't address them.
My whole goal was to try to address as many issues upfront, so by the time we got into the [Maryland Public Service Commission] process we knew our issues and addressed them if we could and reached agreements if we could do that.
We wanted to come into the community in the right way.
How do your efforts pay off?
We got it done. …
From the feedback we've received from others in the state, the General Assembly and business community, they were receptive and appreciated the fact that we made the commitment to get out and talk. I don't attribute that to me. I attribute that to the fact that we were here, and [the point person] happened to be me.
What kind of corporate citizen will Exelon be in the state?
We agreed to charitable contributions of $7 million per year for the next 10 years. We committed to that right upfront. …
We believe that we have the track record and reputation that's, bar none, one of the best in terms of commitment to the community, education and arts.
That's what was nice about our merger with Constellation. We have similar philosophies in making our contributions. In Maryland going forward, it will be BGE and Constellation making those commitments. Exelon would occasionally step in. … Those decisions will be made on a local basis.
What would you tell people who still have concerns about an out-of-state parent?
I would say that I understand. But at the end of the day, we're headquartering our fastest-growing business in the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland.
When you look at the future of Maryland, you're part of the larger organization, a Fortune 500 company, with stability, and our fastest-growing business is right there.
The prospects for Maryland and the future job growth and revenue generated in Maryland are significant.
Were you surprised at the level of interest and involvement around the new Exelon headquarters building in Baltimore?
Just a little. I was not surprised because it recognized the economic benefits and the jobs especially from the community. When you talk about jobs across the nation being on the decline, this was a significant opportunity.
What I was surprised at was the level of angst of our site choice. That's what surprised me.
Having said that, I think the partnership with the city and our developer … [is] going to be tremendous.
The benefits that people will derive from this will have people say, "What a great decision in choosing Harbor Point."
We're still negotiating with developers right now. As we get more updates, we'll definitely share them with you.
What will be your role be in Maryland going forward?