Centrica eyes move for top BP executive


One of BP’s top executives has emerged as a surprise candidate to become the next chairman of British Gas owner Centrica.

Iain Conn is expected to figure prominently in the search to replace Sir Roger Carr, who is leaving the energy giant next year after a decade in the job.

Mr Conn, 50, has gained broad experience in a 27-year career at BP. He currently runs refining and marketing activities and sits on the main board while, in an earlier role, he picked up consumer experience after remodelling BP’s downstream business, including its petrol stations.

Under Sam Laidlaw, Centrica, which supplies power to 12 million British homes, has been growing its exploration assets to guarantee future energy supply. That strategy has seen investments in North Sea gas and offshore wind projects. The company is also aiming to expand its American division Direct Energy, which has 5.5 million customers and operates a number of gas-fired plants.

At BP, Edinburgh-born Mr Conn was regarded as a potential successor to Tony Hayward, who stepped down in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The job eventually went to Bob Dudley.

An appointment at Centrica, which has a stock market value of £19bn, could presage Mr Conn’s exit from the oil giant. He already has a number of outside roles and has spent eight years as a non-executive director at Rolls-Royce.

Sir Dick Olver, who is leaving defence giant BAE Systems after a decade in the chair, is viewed as another potential candidate for the Centrica job. The search is being led by City headhunter Anna Mann, with Centrica’s senior independent director, Mary Francis, in charge of the hunt at board level.