Richmond-based Fortune 500 utility’s longtime leader was battling cancer
April 2, 2021
Thomas F. Farrell II, the longtime chairman, president and CEO of Dominion Energy Inc., died Friday, one day after ending his tenure as the Richmond-based Fortune 500 utility’s executive chair and top leader. Farrell, 66, was battling cancer, according to an announcement from Dominion.
“Tom was a peerless mentor and outstanding leader who sought to find innovative solutions to challenges at Dominion Energy, in the utility industry and in the community he called home,” Robert M. Blue, who succeeded Farrell in October 2020 as president and CEO, said in a statement. “In his tenure at the company, Tom oversaw an era of prosperity and growth, and a long-term transformation that will have a lasting impact on clean energy development and on the health of the environment. Above all else, he loved spending time with his wife, his sons and their spouses, and his grandchildren. We will miss him greatly, and extend our deepest condolences to his loving family.”
Farrell’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, according to Dominion’s statement. Blue became Dominion’s chairman on Thursday, when Farrell formally left his job as executive chair, passing the utility’s leadership to Blue. According to March Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Farrell had planned to remain at Dominion in an advisory role to Blue until May 1, when Farrell was to retire.
The news that Farrell was stepping down as Dominion’s executive chairman came on the heels of a March 23 announcement that Farrell was also resigning from Henrico County-based Altria Group Inc.’s board of directors, which Farrell had chaired since April 2020. Farrell’s retirements from the Dominion and Altria boards were both filed with the SEC on the same day. He had transitioned from Dominion’s president and CEO to executive chair in October 2020, leading to Blue’s ascension as Dominion’s top leader.
One of the state’s most powerful leaders, Farrell also chaired the state GO Virginia board, which allocates funding for economic development projects across Virginia. He served on the boards of visitors for Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia, for which he also served as rector. He held a bachelor’s degree in economics and a law degree from the University of Virginia.
Farrell, who grew up as an Army brat, wrote, funded and produced the 2014 film, “Field of Lost Shoes,” which focused on the 250 teen cadets from Virginia Military Institute who fought for the Confederates during the Battle of New Market in 1864.
Dominion’s annual revenue for 2020 was $14.17 billion. Under Farrell’s leadership, Dominion tripled its philanthropic giving and came close to doubling its earnings per share.
Farrell joined Dominion in 1995 as its general counsel, having previously represented the company as part of a team of attorneys at McGuireWoods. He became its president and CEO in 2006 and was elected chairman of the utility’s board in 2007.
In recent years, Farrell led the utility towards more sustainable sources of energy, including expansions into solar and offshore wind.
Last summer, Dominion canceled its long-delayed $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline and sold its gas transmission and storage business to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for almost $10 billion, with Farrell saying that Dominion would be narrowing its focus on its utilities business. As part of a state initiative to shift to carbon-free energy production by 2050, Dominion last year completed the pilot phase of its proposed $7.8 billion, 2,640-megawatt wind farm 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Scheduled for completion in 2026, it is planned to be the nation’s largest offshore wind farm, with at least 180 giant wind turbines.
Farrell also was a prime player in state and local politics. He served on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s five-person transition committee and also led the Virginia Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Reform. Farrell’s son Peter served three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates.
“We are heartbroken. This is an incredible loss of a remarkable man,” said Farrell’s brother-in-law, Richard Cullen, the former state attorney general and former McGuireWoods chairman, in a statement released Friday.
In early 2020, amid community opposition, Richmond City Council defeated the $1.5 billion Navy Hill downtown redevelopment plan Farrell had spearheaded in an attempt to replace the aging Richmond Coliseum.
Among his many civic positions, Farrell chaired the Edison Electric Institute and the Virginia Business Council and was a past member of the board of trustees for both the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
“I know I speak for my fellow members of the Virginia Business Council when I express my deep sadness over the passing of Tom Farrell,” said current Virginia Business Council Chairman W. Heywood Fralin, chairman of Roanoke-based Medical Facilities of America Inc., in a statement. “Tom’s contributions to the energy industry, the commonwealth and the many causes he supported are unparalleled and generations to come will benefit from the legacy he leaves behind. We have lost one of Virginia’s most impactful and compassionate leaders. Without a doubt, Tom will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and those who knew and loved him.”
“Over his years as [Dominion] chairman, Tom shaped the board in his image – strong and able with a keen eye on ethical behavior, diversity and inclusion, public and community service and innovation,” Robert H. Spilman, lead director of Dominion’s board, added in a statement. “The commonwealth of Virginia has lost a kind soul who was abundantly generous to nonprofits supporting the arts and culture, education and critical community needs.”