In 1994 the majority of MP's largest customer contracts were ending in the next few years. Steve Sherner, MP's vice president of Large Power Marketing, heard rumblings from these customers that they would not sign up again unless the contracts' terms were more flexible to their needs. As one customer executive put it, "MP needs to wake up and understand the beast they're serving—what it takes for us to survive long term. Our survival is their future." Other large power customers went beyond rumbling. One of them petitioned the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, asking that they be allowed to get their power from a local cooperative rather than from MP. The account lost. Another account sought open access from the legislature so customers could get power from anywhere they wanted. That bill was denied by only one vote in the Minnesota senate.
The large-customer rumblings then grew louder and clearer. After its new short-term contract was signed in 1995, MP's single largest customer ($45+ million a year) refused to come celebrate with MP because it felt there was nothing to celebrate. Later, in the spring of 1995, Sherner commissioned assessments on the firm's largest power customers. He wanted an objective third-party view of these relationships to test his concerns and to make certain MP executives heard directly from strategic accounts. Shortly into this assessment, MP confirmed that this account's executives were very dissatisfied with the MP relationship. Account contacts were eloquent about embracing the future of deregulation: they were actively looking for a new power supplier. Those conducting the account assessments strongly suggested that MP mount a major effort to repair this large-customer relationship.