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When the Williams Group decided to spend $3 billion to buy Houston-based Transco Energy Co. in May 1995 and pump an additional $1 billion into the faltering company, it tapped Cuba Wadlington Jr. to head up the newly acquired natural-gas pipeline firm. At the time, Transco, with 10,500 miles of natural-gas pipelines, was in financial trouble. A number of its customers were dissatisfied with the company’s inability to expand and offer more reliable service.
Wadlington had been with Williams in a number of capacities before taking on the challenge of turning Transco around and building it back up. Officials at Williams, the nation’s largest volume transporter of natural gas, felt he was well suited for the job.
Earlier, Wadlington had been the architect of the 908-mile Kern River Pipeline Project, which took seven years to plan and build.
To design and complete it, he had to deal with state and federal regulatory agencies, competition from other pipeline companies and those opposed to the project because it threatened some endangered species in the area.
“There were many challenges with the Kern River Project,” says Wadlington. “But I’ve always had a can-do attitude. My approach is to figure out a way to deal with the issues in a way that all parties can come away reasonably satisfied. Find a solution, instead of throwing up our hands [and] saying we can’t do this.” Today, the Kern River Project, the first interstate pipeline built in California, is one of the most profitable in the country.
With a bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics from Washington University and an M.B.A. in finance from St. Louis University, Wadlington began his career with the Mississippi River Transmission Co. in 1968. After 11 years, the St. Louis native moved to Williams, where he’s spent the past 16 years.
“Transco was very attractive to us,” explains Wadlington, 55, senior vice president and general manager of Transco, who has 30 years’ experience in the pipeline business. “It was situated well in the Southern and Eastern markets and it already had an impressive structure in place,” says the 6-foot 4-inch former Marine.
After Transco received its initial capital infusion of $1 billion, it was Wadlington’s job to meet with customers and reassure them of the company’s commitment to providing them with the cheapest gas and most reliable service. Today, Transco is the least expensive provider in the markets it serves.
How did he do it? “By reducing our costs, building projects on time and within our budgets, and by continuing to train our employees to improve their overall skills,” Wadlington says. Under his leadership, Transco, since 1995, has had double-digit improvements in its operating profits. Last year, the company had revenues of $786 million with a $266 million operating budget.
With 1,500 employees, Transco is the largest of five oil and gas pipeline companies in the Williams Group, a multibillion-dollar company with gas pipelines, energy services and communications divisions. Today, Transco is the most active pipeline system in the nation, with projects that stretch from New York City to
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