Engineering ‘distinguished’ alumnus to lead TVA

Nashville businessman and Vanderbilt University engineering alumnus Dennis C. Bottorff has been selected to take over next month as the chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority board. The TVA board voted unanimously April 16, 2010, to elect Bottorff as chairman when Mike Duncan asked to step down.

Dennis Bottorff

“The energy industry is changing in profound ways that will require major capital investments and different ways of doing business,” Bottorff, 65, who is chairman of the Nashville venture capital firm Council Ventures, said Friday in an interview with The Tennessean.

He said stricter environmental regulations being contemplated in Washington are among the issues posing engineering and financial challenges to TVA. Bottorff has been on the board since 2006.

The public power producer that was started in the 1930s brought electricity, flood control and economic development to the Tennessee Valley and it still serves as environmental steward of the Tennessee River. TVA has provided relatively low-priced electricity compared with much of the nation, and that’s partially because of its ability as a federal public power producer to raise capital at lower costs than investor-owned utilities.

TVA provides electricity to most of Tennessee and parts of six other states. Most of the electricity comes from burning coal, with nuclear energy the second-largest source for the electricity. Hydroelectric dams make up about 10 percent.

Bottorff received his bachelor of engineering from Vanderbilt in 1966 and his MBA from Northwestern University in 1968. He has been a member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust since 1990 and was named in 1999 to the School of Engineering’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

He began his career in banking in 1968 at Commerce Union Bank in Nashville and in 1981 became its president. In 1984 he was elected chairman and CEO of Commerce Union Corp. and Commerce Union Bank. When Sovran Financial Corp. acquired Commerce Union Corp. in 1987, Bottorff was named vice chair and director. He became president and chief operating officer in 1989. When Sovran was acquired by NCNB to form Nations Bank in 1991, Bottorff returned to Nashville to become president and CEO of First American. He stayed with First American (later AmSouth Bancorporation) until 2001. He is presently chairman of Council Ventures, a venture capital firm.

Bottorff has been active in a number of civic organizations, including serving as chairman of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. He also chaired the boards of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the United Way, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Symphony, and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. An avid sports fan, he has served on the board of the Sports Authority of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and on the Tennessee Titans Advisory Committee.

In the business arena, he has served on the boards of directors of the American Bankers Association, the Jack C. Massey School of Business at Belmont University, the Financial Services Roundtable, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Leadership Nashville. He also serves as a director for Ingram Industries, Dollar General and Benefit Informatics.