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New Vestas Americas chief brings cost-cutting experience

UNITED STAES: When Chris Brown takes the helm at Vestas Americas this month, he will have moved from a city in crisis to a company deeply exposed to uncertainty in the US wind market.

Brown, 52, was only with the City of Detroit for 22 months, a city of 700,000 that has lost a quarter of its residents because of economic doldrums and population flight.

With Brown as chief operating officer, Detroit slashed city pay by 10% this summer to the dismay of its unionised workers. Brown was also in charge of rationalising the city's shaky finances, organisational structure, ailing lighting system and water and sewerage departments.

Cost cutter

In April, Brown supported mayor Dave Bing as he fended off an external, emergency manager sent by the state of Michigan to control Detroit's finances by making sharp cuts in spending, notes Bernie Porn, pollster for political consultancy Epic MRA.

Manufacturer Vestas has been hiring cost-cutters because of ailing profitability, while also shedding jobs. In early November, the firm announced plans to cut its global workforce by 2,000 within 14 months to slash costs by EUR400 million. The Danish company had already shed jobs in the US and has said the number might reach 1,600 if the production tax credit is not extended.

Brown's other previous roles have included managing director of Singapore Power International, senior vice president of Singapore Power, chief executive and founder of Deepwater Wind and executive vice president of utility DTE Energy Resources. He has also been director of Asia operations for the New Orleans energy company Entergy Corp and counsel for Constellation Energy, which operates in the US and Canada.

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