Pinnacle West paying ex-CEO Brandt big bucks for consulting

Don Brandt, CEO of Arizona Public Service and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corp., is sworn in before the Arizona Corporation Commission Sept. 4, 2019. Photo by Tom Tingle/The Republic | Pool photo

Don Brandt is retiring as chief executive officer for Arizona Public Service and its parent company Pinnacle West, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the fold.

Pinnacle West is keeping Brandt, who will retire as CEO on Nov. 15, on board as a contract consultant. According to a quarterly filing the company submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, the Pinnacle West board of directors on Nov. 4 approved a $1.75 million agreement for Brandt to serve as a consultant for 12 months. Brandt will receive $25,000 per month for the first 11 months of the deal, with the remainder of nearly $1.5 million paid out at the end. 

The SEC filing states that Brandt’s duties will be to consult and advise on matters at the board of directors’ request, including assisting the board and Pinnacle West “in the transition of responsibilities” to Jeff Guldner, who will succeed Brandt as CEO. In particular, the filing says Brandt “will provide advice and support regarding the transition of oversight of the Palo Verde Generating Station.”

Brandt, who took over the companies in 2009, oversaw an era of record growth for APS and Pinnacle West, but also of political controversy.

Perhaps most notably, the utility giant under Brandt’s tenure engaged heavily in political campaigns to an extent never seen before. It spent millions in Corporation Commission campaigns — secretly through the use of “dark money” in 2014 and openly in 2016 — to elect regulators considered favorable to APS. 

The election of APS allies to the commission helped the company obtain a controversial rate hike in 2017. An outside consulting firm hired by the Corporation Commission determined that APS profits from that rate hike were in excess of what the regulators approved.

Brandt also came under fire after an elderly Sun City woman died in 2018 when APS shut off her power for non-payment of an outstanding $51 bill on a 107-degree day. 

APS is now asking the Corporation Commission to approve a new rate hike

The utility’s political activities have been profitable for it, as well as for Brandt personally. Pinnacle West’s stock value has risen substantially since it began spending heavily in Corporation Commission elections, boosting the value of shares that Brandt sold by at least $4.8 million, according to an analysis by the Arizona Mirror

A spokeswoman for APS and Pinnacle West did not respond to requests for comment.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”