Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s chief executive officer will resign less than four months after taking over the bankrupt utility’s operations, according to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello.

Walter Higgins plans to submit his resignation because an unexpected family incident will keep him out of Puerto Rico, Rossello told reporters Wednesday in San Juan. Higgins, an outsider from Nevada, brought a fresh eye and 40 years of management experience to Prepa, as the utility’s known. He will continue to collaborate with the agency, Rossello said.

Jose Blanco, Prepa’s spokesman, declined to comment.

Prepa is struggling to rebuild its electrical grid after Hurricane Maria struck the island last year, leaving most residents without power for months. The system, which relies on oil to produce electricity, suffers from years of mismanagement and neglect.

PREPA executive director Walter Higgins
Walter Higgins

The El Nuevo Dia newspaper reported that Prepa board member Rafael Diaz-Granados will replace Higgins. Rossello declined to name a likely successor or give a clear list of candidates, although he did say that Diaz-Granados is a highly qualified person.

Prepa fell into bankruptcy last year and is seeking to reduce $9 billion of debt. Prices on Puerto Rico securities, including Prepa bonds, have increased this year as the commonwealth works through its own bankruptcy process.

Prepa bonds maturing in 2040 traded Wednesday at an average price of 43.7 cents on the dollar, up from about 30 cents at the start of the year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg News