Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

Harvard Business School Baker Library Historical Collections

Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Montecatini - Lehman Brothers Collection

Montecatini

List of Deals

Pacific Power & Light Company was incorporated in 1910 through the merger of several financially troubled electric utilities in the Pacific Northwest. At the time of its formation, Pacific had a total of 14,344 electric, gas, and water customers and first-year revenues of $832,200. It was difficult for small electric companies at that time to raise enough capital to expand or improve service. Due to this, holding companies began to appear in the United States. Holding companies bought smaller firms and integrated them into regional electric utilities. They also provided capital and expertise to the smaller companies. Electric Bond & Share was the holding company that owned Pacific.

Pacific successfully marketed and sold electric appliances to help increase electricity sales, although the Depression slowed the company's sales until 1941. Except for the worst years of the Depression, rural electrification was an important source of company growth. By 1938 Pacific's system included 10,000 farms, and by 1941 Pacific was in a solid financial position, with income of $740,000 on sales of $6.7 million. It had 73,000 customers, including 4,400 electrified farms. The next year Pacific joined the newly formed Northwest Power Pool, formed with several other regional power companies to coordinate resources when capacity was stretched.

One of the biggest New Deal projects was the development of regional hydroelectric systems, such as the Pacific Northwest system, which included the Bonneville Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam. Such projects stimulated the regional economy and allowed the company to buy a share of the low-cost hydroelectric power that the dams would produce. In 1950 Electric Bond & Share spun off Pacific as an independent, publicly traded company. Pacific pushed aggressively to build itself into a self-sufficient organization, moving to secure its power supply. The Pacific Northwest area was booming, and Pacific was unsure it would be able to renew its contract to buy cheap government power, so it began building its own hydroelectric-generating stations. The company completed the Yale Dam in 1953, but still generated only 50 percent of its power. That generating dearth lead to Pacific's first major merger, with Mountain States Power Company. The companies merged in 1954, creating a company twice as large as it had been, with service territory spread over five states. The merger also brought Pacific two small telephone companies, one in Oregon and one in Montana.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Pacific bought coal leases that gave it more than one billion tons of reserves. In 1961 the company merged with California Oregon Power Company (COPCO). With this acquisition, Pacific jumped to 411,000 customers from 318,000 and reached annual revenues of $90 million. During the 1960s Pacific struggled to integrate the COPCO system and meet demand, which was growing at 7 percent a year. The region's hydroelectric potential was already tapped, so the company added thermal-generating plants.

Harvard Business School Harvard Business School Baker Library Histrorical Collections