Grid finance director removed

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The Independent Online
National Grid, the privatised electricity transmission business, yesterday unexpectedly parted company with its finance director, John Uttley, the man who gave some of his flotation windfall to charity after the group's controversial share debut.

In a statement the Grid said the move, with immediate effect, was by mutual agreement, though it emerged later that the board had met with Mr Uttley on Monday to ask him to leave the company to make way for "new blood".

He had been the Grid's finance director since the privatisation of the power industry in 1990 and had held the same post with the former Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) since 1984.

A Grid spokesman explained: "It's fair to say John wouldn't have chosen this time to go. John would have wished to stay on a bit longer. It was a board decision raised with John on Monday. He has not decided what to do yet and hasn't got another job to go to at this stage."

Mr Uttley, 51, was thought to have provoked a boardroom rift 18 months ago when he asked the company to say publicly that he was giving about pounds 50,000 to charity, following paper windfalls worth some pounds 1.5m made by directors in the flotation.

The former industry minister, Tim Eggar, had asked Grid executives to give some of their gains to charity, but three other directors including David Jefferies, chairman, declined to reveal their decisions.

Mr Uttley, who was not at work yesterday and could not be contacted, is now likely to receive a pay-off of pounds 230,000. Like other Grid executives Mr Uttley moved from a two-year to a one-year rolling contract last November. He also owns shares worth more than pounds 340,000 at yesterday's closing price and had options yielding paper profits worth a further pounds 627,716.

His replacement is Stephen Box, a corporate finance partner with Coopers & Lybrand, the Grid's auditors. Mr Box, 46, advised the group during electricity privatisation in 1990 and the Grid's flotation during 1995. However he cannot take over the role until 4 August and David Jones, the Grid's chief executive, will take on the extra responsibilities until then. Mr Box will receive basic pay of pounds 180,000, slightly higher than Mr Uttley's, and other short and long-term bonuses.

The Grid yesterday denied the change was a reflection on Mr Uttley's record. "It's not a question of his past performance. We are fulsome in our praise for John, but the board have looked into what we need for the future. John has done 13 years with the CEGB and it's time for a change with new blood from outside the electricity sector."