Last night, Medellín’s Mayor Daniel Quintero announced the appointment of Alejandro Calderón Chatet as the new CEO of Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM). Calderón has served as executive vice president of finance & investment since December 1st of last year.
Quintero also thanked EPM’s Vice President of Strategy & Planning Mónica Ruiz Arbeláez for serving as interim CEO since February 1st while a formal talent search was conducted to replace former CEO Álvaro Rendón, who was fired earlier this year by Quintero, leading to a bitter public dispute.
Calderón has a background in finance and investment, working as a credit analyst for Standard & Poor in Paris, serving as the Colombian consul in Boston, Massachusetts during the Juan Manuel Santos administration, and holding several investment banking roles in Bogotá at C&C Gold, Silk Investment Bank, and Grupo Pegasus. Calderón also served a stint working on mergers and acquisitions for Colombian petroleum company Ecopetrol. Calderón also served on the board of directors of Perú Minerals S.A.C.
On one hand, investors may hope that a head with a background in banking and finance can bring much needed stability to EPM, a multinational utility owned by the city of Medellín that has been plunged into controversy in the past year due to perceived breakdowns in governance. The current board of directors, all appointed by Mayor Quintero, is relatively light on relevant corporate experience.
Quintero during his mayoral campaign insulted then CEO Jorge Londoño, implying he was corrupt, but the mayor’s chosen replacement lasted barely a year, falling out with the politico accusing him of violating the utility’s managerial independence.
One observation that stands out in Calderon’s background is, based on the biography provided by EPM, he has no utility or operational experience, having worked his entire career in deal making—investment banking and M&A. This in no way indicates that Calderón isn’t up for the job, but EPM’s challenges are its troubled Hidroituango hydroelectric project, the monumental operational task of rehabilitating recently acquired Electricaribe, and managing EPM’s vast utility holdings spanning from Chile in the south to México in the north.
The millions of customers that rely on EPM and its subsidiaries for reliable services along with the institutional bondholders who depend on EPM for timely payments will be counting on Calderón’s ability to pivot from a career doing deals to quite literally keeping the lights on, the water clean & flowing, and shielding EPM from populist political machinations from the other side of Medellín’s 55th street that separates EPM’s headquarters from city hall.