Energy leader Matthew Simmons dies on North Haven
North Haven — Matthew Simmons, a national energy investment leader who founded the Ocean Energy Institute in Rockland, died Aug. 8 at his home on North Haven.
Simmons, 67, died of drowning while in a hot tub at his home on Salt Marsh Lane, according to the Maine Medical Examiner's Office, which conducted an autopsy Aug. 9. The autopsy showed that Simmons suffered from heart disease and that may have contributed to his death.
The Knox County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call shortly before 10 p.m. from the residence and the incident was initially classified as a drowning.
Simmons has been a seasonal resident of the region for many years with a home also in Rockport. His name first became prominent in the local area when he purchased the then closed Strand Theatre in Rockland in 2004 and invested a large amount of money to restore the historic downtown theater to its original state. The Strand reopened in 2005 and presents live entertainment as well as movies.
Simmons founded and was the head of the Houston-based Simmons & Co. International, the largest energy investment company in the world.
He founded the Ocean Energy Institute in 2007 and opened an office in Rockland last month at the Breakwater Marketplace on Camden Street. The institute's goal is to attract investment into renewable energy sources from the ocean. The organization has worked closely with the state on the development of off-shore wind turbines.
Simmons wrote "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy" in 2005, alerting the world to a looming oil shortage.
He is survived by his wife, Ellen, and their five daughters. Details of services are pending. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Ocean Energy Research Institute.
First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree issued a statement Aug. 9 on Simmons' death.
"Matt was a neighbor and a friend and the news of his passing is profoundly sad," Pingree said. "My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."
"Matt was a visionary, a man of ideas and an outspoken advocate for the things he believed in," Pingree said. "He was dedicated to making Maine a leader in offshore wind energy and made significant contributions to life in the Midcoast. We were fortunate that he was willing to bring his vast experience and success to Maine. His energy, intelligence and commitment will be sorely missed."
Gov. John Baldacci also issued a statement.
"Matt Simmons was an innovative thinker who pushed ideas that have the potential to yield a more environmentally and economically sustainable future for Maine and the world," Baldacci said. "I visited Matt and his team last month and thanked them for their partnership with the state as we aggressively build an independent energy future for Maine. Our state has been viewed as a leader in alternative energy in part because of the groundbreaking work spearheaded by Matt Simmons and the Ocean Energy Institute. His leadership and commitment to a better world will be missed, and we need to continue Matt's work and vision as a way to honor him. Matt was also a kind and generous man. At this difficult time, we send our deepest sympathies to his family."
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also issued a statement.
"I am shocked and saddened by the loss of Matt Simmons, who was so devoted to Maine," Collins said. "I worked closely with Matt on the development of UMaine's deepwater offshore wind energy initiative, and most recently saw him on June 14 during Energy Secretary Chu's visit to UMaine.
"Matt was a pioneer in alternative energy, and only weeks ago hosted the grand opening of his Ocean Energy Institute in Rockland. This is truly a tragic loss."