Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Essential Utilities
A fixture of the Essential leadership team, Christopher Franklin is chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Essential Utilities, Inc. (NYSE: WTRG). Essential is one of the largest publicly traded water, wastewater and natural gas providers in the U.S., serving approximately 5 million people across 10 states. He has served as CEO since July 2015, and as chairman since December 2017.
Since being named CEO in 2015, the company’s market capitalization more than doubled, to more than $11 billion. Through the company’s growth-through-acquisition program, customer count nearly doubled and total return to shareholders was more than 100%.
In 2018, the company welcomed its 1 millionth customer, and in 2019, it announced what will be the largest municipal acquisition in the company’s history – an agreement to acquire the wastewater assets of the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (DELCORA), adding 165,000 new customers.
These successes are attributed to Franklin refocusing the company on growing its regulated business, purchasing municipal water and wastewater systems, and shedding its under-performing unregulated businesses. The company then broadened its strategy by adding a natural gas platform with the $4.3 billion purchase of Pittsburgh-based Peoples.
The accomplishment of which Franklin is most proud is building a strong management team. He has worked deliberately to bring diversity to the company’s board of directors, employee base and management team. In fact, Franklin has appointed nine women to leadership roles in the company since being named CEO. Under Franklin’s leadership, the company has been recognized by the Forum of Executive Women in Philadelphia for recruiting a Board of Directors that is comprised of at least 30 percent women.
Additionally, Franklin was named one of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Most Admired CEOs in 2017 for his “strong record of innovation, outstanding financial performance, commitment to quality, a strong vision, a commitment to diversity in the workplace and contributions to the Greater Philadelphia region.” In 2019, Franklin was recognized by EY (formerly Ernst & Young) with their “Entrepreneur of the Year” award for his innovative vision of the Peoples acquisition and many years of successful leadership in the utility industry.
Prior to his role as CEO, Franklin was president and chief operating officer. A 27-plus-year veteran of the company, Franklin has held executive roles in public affairs, customer service and operations.
In addition to serving as the chairman of Essential’s board of directors, Franklin is active in the community and serves on the following nonprofit boards:
• Director and past chairman, National Association of Water Companies
• Director, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia
• Director, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Pittsburgh, Pa.
• Trustee, University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees, Philadelphia, Pa.
• Trustee, West Chester University’s Council of Trustees, West Chester, Pa.
• Trustee, The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pa.
Franklin earned his bachelor’s degree from West Chester University and his MBA from Villanova University.