Hawley quits British Energy with bumper pounds 450,000 pay-off

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The Independent Online
Robert Hawley, chief executive of the privatised nuclear power generator British Energy, is quitting the post with a pounds 450,000 pay-off after being refused the chairmanship of the company.

The surprise announcement yesterday means that British Energy is in line for a further bout of boardroom upheaval. The company has pledged to appoint a successor before the end of the year. In the meantime John Robb, presently non-executive chairman, will step into the breach as executive chairman.

Mr Robb is due to retire himself in two years' time. He took on the job of chairman after John Collier, a lifelong nuclear executive and chairman of Nuclear Electric, died in the run up to the pounds 1.3bn flotation of the industry last year.

In a brief statement, British Energy said that Mr Hawley would be leaving at the end of this month following discussions about the management succession and the age profile of the board. Mr Hawley, who is 60, had indicated that he wanted to take over the chairmanship when Mr Robb, who is 61, retires in 1999.

The board decided, however, that it wanted a younger man and so told Mr Hawley that he would not get the job. Mr Hawley said yesterday that it was time for him to move on "an concentrate on the development and growth of other companies in the role of chairman".

He is currently chairman of a small engineering company Rotork and also of Tricorder, a management buyout from the engineering group Ricardo.

Mr Hawley is credited with having turned the nuclear industry around, got it through privatisation and overseen its first year in the private sector. However, some insiders regarded him as being a little too brusque for the role of chairman, particularly given the politically and environmentally sensitive position British Energy occupies.

In the run-up to privatisation Mr Hawley was involved in a series of tough negotiating sessions with the Department of Trade and Industry that endeared him neither to civil servants nor ministers.

The two internal candidates for the chief executive's job are Peter Warry, 47, chief executive of Nuclear Electric, which runs the group's nuclear power stations in England, and Robin Jeffrey, 58, chief executive of Scottish Nuclear. The other senior executive board member is finance director Michael Kirwan, who is 56.

However, the board intends to extend the search for a suitable replacement to outside candidates.

Dr Hawley is the second senior executive in the privatised electricity industry to leave his job in the past seven days. Last week National Grid, which operates the electricity transmission network, said that it had asked its finance director John Uttley to leave.

Dr Hawley joined Nuclear Electric as it was then in 1992 after a career in the engineering industry which culminated in the job of managing director at Northern Engineering Industries. He was on a salary of pounds 207,000 when British Energy was privatised and his contract was due to end in July, 1999.