Jessie J. Knight, Jr. is Managing Director of Knight Angels, a private equity fund devoted to anonymous philanthropy and financial support of grassroots leaders that improve their local communities with innovative solutions, and who themselves are either a military veteran, woman, or an ethnic minority.
Mr. Knight retired on November 1, 2015, as Sempra Energy’s Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Chairman of two of its subsidiaries, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E with $6 billion in revenues), and Southern California Gas Company (SoCal Gas with $9 billion in revenues).
Mr. Knight was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SDG&E from 2010 to 2014. In addition to providing record earnings during his time as CEO, he led significant utility achievements: the construction of the 117-mile Sunrise Powerlink electric transmission line for renewable energy for San Diego, system-wide technological deployments in smart meters, electric vehicles, smart grid technologies, and conversion of the aggregate energy portfolio to 23% renewable power with significant wind and solar projects. In addition to his chairman’s duties overseeing the utilities, as Executive Vice President of External Affairs, he oversaw media communications and public affairs, government relations, regulatory affairs, regulatory and environmental compliance, and international affairs for Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Argentina subsidiaries.
From 1999–2006, he was President and CEO of the 2,800-member San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, representing over 400,000 employees, the largest business organization in California and the third largest Chamber of Commerce in the Western United States.
Mr. Knight began his corporate career in 1975 with Castle & Cooke Foods, where he worked 10 years in both domestic and international operations. Beginning as a Division Financial Analyst for the banana operations in Honduras, Central America, he was later promoted to Senior Marketing Analyst for Dole’s Coca Cola franchise and its Salva Vida beer brand under Dole’s subsidiary, Cerveceria Hondureña in Honduras.
After returning to the United States in 1978, Mr. Knight was promoted through the ranks of marketing management for the organization’s world-wide pineapple and seafood businesses, ending his ten-year career with 3-1/2 years as corporate Marketing Director- North America, for of all Dole’s U.S. and Canadian canned and juice retail grocery products divisions.
From 1985 and until 1992, Mr. Knight was Vice President of Marketing for the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner Newspapers, overseeing business-to- business marketing, consumer product marketing, strategic planning, and consumer research. While there, he was awarded five national Clio Awards for television, radio, and print advertising, and a Cannes Film Festival Golden Lion Award for business marketing.
From 1993 to 1999, Mr. Knight served as Commissioner for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), appointed by Governor Pete Wilson, and unanimously ratified by the full California Senate. With 800 employees, this constitutional agency had regulatory oversight for the then $52 billion telecommunications, railroad safety, transportation, water, electricity, and natural gas industries of the state. He was recognized nationally as a leading regulatory voice to de-regulate the telecommunications and energy industries to create competitive markets. In a dissenting written opinion in the legal record, he foretold the ultimate demise of the original electric deregulation framework that California embarked upon that contributed to the state’s energy crisis in 2001. Since then, in various personal and professional capacities, he has been an ardent spokesperson and advocate to elevate California and the nation’s energy policies to embrace free enterprise principles, as opposed to government fiat and mandates.
Prior to his gubernatorial appointment as a CPUC Commissioner, Mr. Knight was employed as Executive Vice President of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, responsible for international programs, economic development and business development for the 2,100 businesses represented by the organization. Under the auspices of the Chamber in 1992, he organized the original investor group to purchase the San Francisco Giants’ baseball team from then-owner, Robert Lurie, and subsequently helped orchestrate the political approval and the initiation of construction of the current baseball stadium where the San Francisco Giants now reside.