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The California energy crisis, the implosion of Enron Corp., and industry deregulation all made for a challenging year in the utility business. Randall Mehrberg of Chicago’s Exelon Corp. is one of seven general counsel on our compensation survey who were given top billing — not to mention electrifying paychecks — at utilities. Last year Mehrberg earned $707,700 in salary and bonus, landing him at No. 72 on our list. Mehrberg, 46, is new to our roster, having come to Exelon in 2000 from Chicago’s Jenner & Block, where he was a general commercial litigation partner. Exelon itself is young, the offspring of the late 2000 combination of Philadelphia-based PECO Energy Corp. and Chicago-based Unicom Corp., parent companies of Philadelphia Electric Co. and Commonwealth Edison, respectively. Mehrberg, who was hired after an extensive search, has his hands full. He’s centralized the 70-attorney law department and pared the company’s outsized law firm roster from well over 100 to about 25. He’s also dealing with fallout from Enron’s bankruptcy and allegations that energy traders gamed the California power market. Exelon says it never engaged in “wash” trading to inflate revenues and volume. In an earlier incarnation, Mehrberg was a paid “tree-hugger.” From 1993 until 1997 he served as general counsel and lakefront director of the Chicago Park District, which oversees 552 parks and $9 billion in assets. As a civil servant, the job satisfaction, says Mehrberg, was immense; the pay wasn’t. And though he’s not one of the high-fliers on our list, Mehrberg won’t be turning off the lights anytime soon.

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