Who Is E. Linn Draper Jr.?

Ernest Linn Draper Jr. is the former chair, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power (AEP), a public utility holding company based in Ohio that serves 11 states.

Linn became the company's leader in 1992 and announced his retirement in April 2003. He relinquished his position as president and CEO at the end of 2003, and gave up the chair role in 2004.

Linn took the helm just as energy deregulation was taking place. He led the merger with Central & South West Corp, a deal that was approved in mid-2000. Linn reassured investors of the company's strength in the wake of the Enron scandal, and kept the company afloat through the recession of 2001-2002.

Key Takeaways

  • Ernest Linn Draper Jr. is the former chair, president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power (AEP).
  • Draper distinguished himself by guiding AEP through the aftermath of the Enron scandal and a major blackout in 2003.
  • He is also an Eagle Scout and a Distinguished Eagle Scout for his inspiring life work and his dedication to community volunteering.

E. Linn Draper Jr. Biography and Career

Ernest Linn Draper Jr. was born in 1942 in Houston, Texas, to Ernest Linn Draper and Marcia L. Saylor. He attended Williams College where he earned a B.A. in 1964, and Rice University where he earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 1965. Draper then earned a Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1970.

He taught at the University of Texas at Austin from 1971 until 1979. He then spent 13 years at Gulf States Utilities and worked his way into senior management.

E. Linn Draper's Career in the Energy Industry

In 1987, Draper joined AEP. He became its president and chief operating officer in 1992. He then became chair, CEO and president in 1993.

The passage of the Energy Policy Act of 1992 deregulated power companies, which lost their status as legal monopolies. After the law took effect, power companies were able to decouple power generation and power sales, allowing for some to focus on trading (such as Enron) and others to focus on generation.

Enron Scandal and the Aftermath

Draper focused on wholesale power generation and pared down the utility's cost structure to get ahead of what were considered industry trends. He also sought to maintain a responsible balance sheet, which served the company well in the aftermath of Enron's implosion and greater scrutiny on the energy industry.

After Draper's reforms, industry analysts gave AEP the all clear. In its 2003 annual report, AEP reported net income of $110 million, compared with a loss of $519 million the year before. The company's share price increased 11.6% year on year.

Draper also cemented his reputation as a reliable CEO and steward of shareholder value, which in the wake of Enron was high praise.

Blackout of 2003

On August 14, 2003, the northeastern United States and parts of Ontario and Quebec suffered its largest blackout ever, impacting an estimated 50 million people. The blackout was reportedly caused by a software bug at FirstEnergy of Akron, Ohio. The bug prevented engineers from redistributing the energy load on overloaded lines. What could have been a small local blackout turned into a major emergency for millions of people living in Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ontario and Quebec.

Draper's investment in infrastructure, particularly in building buffers in AEP's grid, allowed the company to avoid much of the criticism that other utility companies experienced after the blackout. On September 4, 2003, he told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: "From the outset, let me be clear, we did it right. The AEP system held together—a point of pride for us. Our protective systems performed automatically as they were designed to perform, our operators performed and communicated as they should and our load and generation remained in balance throughout the day."

Retirement and Life After AEP

Linn stepped down as president and CEO at the end of 2003 and retired from his position as chair in early 2004.

According to his biography at the University of Texas, Draper has severed on the board of eleven companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange, including Alliance Data Systems (ADS) and NorthWestern Energy (NWE). Draper is an Eagle Scout and a Distinguished Eagle Scout, a distinction awarded to Eagle Scouts after twenty-five years of life work and a record of community volunteer work.