The 56-year-old Martin succeeds longtime Sempra leader Debra Reed, who is retiring. Martin took over CEO responsibilities from Reed in May.
"Early in his tenure as CEO, Jeff Martin has outlined a new strategy to focus on — and grow — Sempra Energy's North American business," William C. Rusnack, lead independent director for Sempra Energy, said in a statement following the company’s board meeting last Thursday.
"Jeff also has implemented important steps to further optimize the company's diversified business portfolio. Our board of directors strongly believes Jeff will provide the leadership necessary to continue to create long-term value for our shareholders and other key stakeholders by serving in the dual role of chairman and CEO."
Martin’s ascendancy comes as Sempra faces a challenge from a group of activist investors, Elliott Management and Bluescape Resources, who control a 4.9 stake in the San Diego-based Fortune 500 company.
Saying Sempra is underperforming, the activist group wants Sempra to add or replace six members of its board and pare down some of the company’s holdings the group says are too far-flung. The activists say such changes would lead to between $11 billion to $16 billion in added value.
Sempra in June announced it was selling all of its solar and wind holdings in the U.S., as well as gas storage facilities in the Deep South — a move Martin said represents a commitment to focus the company’s portfolio on North America.
In March, Sempra wrapped up the largest acquisition in company history, a $9.45 billion deal to acquire Oncor, the largest utility in Texas.
Martin has spent 13 years with Sempra or its subsidiaries, serving as CEO of San Diego Gas & Electric from 2014 to 2016.
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