Pro One not affected by recent Westar management shakeup

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Wednesday, January 1, 2003

TOPEKA, Kan. -Despite a high-profile shakeup in the leadership of Westar Energy, led by the indictment of the company’s chief and the resignation of an executive vice president, officials at Protection One said those changes at its corporate parent will have little effect on its own operations.

David Wittig, Westar’s former chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer, was placed on administrative leave in late November at his own request shortly after he was indicted on federal charges of hiding the true purpose of a $1.5 million bank loan. A former Topeka bank executive was also charged in the case.

Two weeks later, Douglas Lake, Westar’s executive vice president and the chairman of the board at Protection One, was also placed on administrative leave and resigned from Westar’s board of directors, as well as from the board at Protection One. Westar did not say why Lake was placed on leave or had resigned.

“Operationally the business is not impacted in any way, shape or form,” said Richard Ginsburg, president and chief executive officer of Protection One. “At the end of the day, Protection One is a separate company that has positive cash flow and has the ability to stand on its own without subsidies from other entities.”

Westar Energy, which owns an 85 percent stake in the security company, has debts totaling $3.2 billion and faces continued pressure from state regulators to reduce that debt. State officials also charge that the energy company, which has holdings in natural gas, electricity generation and distribution, as well as its stake in Protection One and Guardian International, foists debts from its some of its unregulated subsidiaries onto utility ratepayers in Kansas through its regulated operations.

Much of the blame for that debt has been placed on Protection One, which has seemingly come to “symbolize a little bit the unregulated operations of Westar Energy,” said Robin Lampe, manager of corporate communications for Protection One. Westar also has investments in paging, energy management, and also owns Protection One Europe.

The utility company’s new chief, James Haines, who was formerly the company’s chief financial officer who left to lead another energy company, “has been supportive of the changes that we have made in the company and the new management we have here,” Ginsburg said.

The company, which holds a $250 million credit facility with Westar, expected to hold new elections for its board of directors sometime in December or early January. Chief Financial Officer Darius Nevin was also named to the nine-member board in mid-November. Westar has a representation of between three and five members on the Protection One board.