Who is William Cavanaugh III

William Cavanaugh III is an American businessman with a long history of leadership positions in the energy production and real estate industries. He currently serves as a Lead Director on the Board of Directors of the Duke Realty, an American real estate investment trust (REIT), based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

BREAKING DOWN William Cavanaugh III

William Cavanaugh III was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1939. As a young man, he enrolled at Tulane University, also in New Orleans, where he studied mechanical engineering. After earning a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1961, he enlisted in the United States Navy, where he served for the next eight years, learning important lessons about nuclear power generation through the United States Navy’s nuclear submarine program. In 1969, he was honorably discharged from the Navy, at which point he embarked on a career at Entergy Corp., based in New Orleans. At Entergy he served in executive leadership roles at three of the firm’s electric utility subsidiaries: Arkansas Power & Light, Louisiana Power & Light, and Mississippi Power & Light. 

Cavanaugh III attended the Kidder-Peabody Utility Corporate Finance program in 1983 and Harvard University’s advanced management program in 1991, and these certifications helped prepare him for senior management roles in the energy production sector. He joined Carolina Power & Light Company in the role of President and Chief Operating Officer in 1992, and rose to the role of President and Chief Operating Officer (CEO) in 1999. 

William Cavanaugh III’s Later Career

As CEO of Carolina Power & Light, William Cavanaugh III led the firm’s 1999 acquisition of Florida Progress Corp, which CP&L bought for $54 a share, or $5.3 billion in cash and stock, along with the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt. The combined company adopted a new name, Progress Energy, and became what was at the time the ninth largest energy producer in the United States. Under Cavanaugh’s leadership, the firm grew to become a Fortune 500 company with a new headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina and more than $9 billion in annual revenues. Cavanaugh III retired as Chief Executive Officer of the new company in 2004, and the company was later taken over by Duke Energy in a $26 billion merger that formed the nation’s largest electric utility.

After retiring from Progress Energy, Cavanaugh served as Chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, an international association of nuclear power plant operators that is dedicated to promoting the safe exploitation of nuclear energy.