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Itron names new CEO

Company veteran Mezey sees strong global future

Starting Jan. 1, Philip Mezey will take over as CEO and president of Itron Inc., the Spokane area’s largest publicly traded company.

Mezey, 52, will succeed LeRoy Nosbaum, who joined Itron more than 15 years ago and came out of retirement in 2011 to become interim CEO.

Nosbaum will work for an additional six months as a consultant after Mezey takes over, the Liberty Lake company’s board announced Monday.

Itron is a provider of metering equipment and technology services for water, gas and electric utilities.

Mezey has been with Itron since 2003. Since March 2011 he’s been chief operating officer of the company’s energy unit, serving electric and gas customers.

His base salary was set at $800,000, not including various incentives. A document filed recently with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission noted his compensation package for 2013 is valued at $3.2 million, derived from salary, stock options and bonuses based on reaching performance targets.

Mezey said Itron’s future is strong; the company will continue to grow as more utilities seek integrated “smart grid” systems that help customers save money and consume energy efficiently.

A lot of that future growth will be outside North America, Mezey added.

“We have a foundation of our basic metering business, which gives us access to 8,000 customers who now want more than that basic solution,” Mezey said. “We now have the opportunity to bring that connected-metering solution, plus software, plus services to a much broader global audience.”

One key future focus is Japan, which has announced it will deploy 80 million new smart electric meters in the aftermath of dealing with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

Itron has hopes of grabbing a piece of that large market, and it recently announced a partnership with Panasonic to work together on making smart meters that could be deployed in Japan.

Mezey said that, if successful, he projects Itron and Panasonic might win 20 to 30 percent of that 80 million meter deal.

It’s very likely that three or more suppliers will share the total pie, he said. But, he added, without forming an alliance with a Japan-based company, Itron would have had trouble grabbing a share of the Japanese meter deal.

Mezey said he is not willing to project Itron’s potential sales from the partnership, since terms of the Panasonic contract are confidential. Japan hopes to award the first smart-meter contracts in 2013, with initial deployment in 2014.

He added the European meter market is also a big target for future business.

European Union utilities are considering the likely rollout of about 150 million smart meters, starting in 2014, Mezey said.

Itron generated record sales last year of $2.4 billion.

Board Chairman Jon Eliassen said the board conducted an extensive job search to replace Nosbaum through much of 2012. “We looked inside (the company) and outside. Philip was our clear choice to lead Itron and pave the way for continued growth,” Eliassen said.

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