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Howard P. Allen; Ex-Edison Co. President

Obituaries

July 22, 1998|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Howard P. Allen, the colorful former head of Southern California Edison Co. credited with orchestrating the utility's phenomenal growth into one of the country's top suppliers of electricity, has died. He was 72.

Allen, who retired in 1990 after 36 years with Edison, died Monday night at USC University Hospital of an apparent heart attack.

Under his stewardship through the economically turbulent 1980s, Edison enjoyed nearly a decade of record profits and avoided the risky investments in troubled nuclear projects or savings and loans that proved disastrous for other utility companies. Allen doubled the number of employees and multiplied revenues from $155 million to more than $9 billion.

"Edison went from a regional utility to a global company during Howard Allen's tenure. [His] determination, skill and vision were simply indispensable to that growth," said John E. Bryson, current chairman and chief executive officer of Southern California Edison and its parent Edison International.

Allen became president of Southern California Edison and its parent SCEcorp (renamed Edison International two years ago) in 1980 and chairman and chief executive of both in 1984. He remained on the boards of both organizations until last year.

Vociferously opposed to federal and state regulations that required Edison to buy power from independent producers at rates set by regulators, Allen oversaw the creation of a power producer, Mission Energy, to sell power to Edison.

"Ultimately my subsidiaries might be bigger than my utility . . . way down the line," he told The Times in 1988, with his characteristic humor.

Allen also played a key role in creating the Pacific Intertie System, a major high-voltage transmission line that delivers low-cost, hydroelectric power from the wet Pacific Northwest to dry Southern California.

Allen had a few failures--including his late-1980s proposal to merge Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to create what he envisioned as "the crown jewel of the electric industry." The San Diego utility has subsequently merged with another organization.

The Edison executive was respected in the industry for his clear thinking, common sense about investments, innovation in research and technology, and ability to inspire loyalty among his employees.

Born in Upland, Allen graduated from Chaffey Junior College and then studied economics at Pomona College and law at Stanford University. After three years on the Stanford law faculty, he took a pay cut to join Edison as a Sacramento lobbyist in 1954.

A fixture in civic and community affairs, Allen amassed more than 70 awards, club memberships and corporate directorships. He was a founding board member of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and instrumental in bringing the 1984 Olympics to the city. He was a past president and chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and an officer in the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Allen is survived by his wife, Dixie, and daughter, Alisa.

Funeral services are scheduled at 3 p.m. Monday in All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena. The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the USC Norris Cancer Center Hematology Division or the Health Research Assn. of the USC Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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