Energy minnow seeks big name to take on 'big six'

The energy supplier First Utility is looking for a big-name chairman to help the Morgan Stanley-backed group to crack the dominance of the "big six" within three years.

First Utility, with fewer than 100,000 customers and £60.5m in sales, trails way behind the likes of Scottish & Southern and British Gas, but last month signalled its intentions for rapid growth by appointing Ian McCaig as chief executive.

Mr McCaig was the boss of Lastminute.com for four years, working closely with co-founder Brent Hoberman.

The UK's six biggest utilities, also including Eon and Npower, are preparing to announce combined profits of £15bn during the next few weeks, while 5.5 million people in are fuel poverty.

Mr McCaig has turned to headhunter Heidrick & Struggles to find a chairman to help take the business on to "the next level", potentially leading to a flotation towards the end of his three-year plan.

Mr McCaig said: "We went through a pretty rigorous and exhaustive pitch process with headhunters. We're looking for someone who can guide us through the growth process and the process of strengthening our corporate governance."

The search could take several months to complete, so Marc Citron, who founded the company as First Telecom with Mark Daeche in 1994, is interim chairman.

Morgan Stanley became a shareholder in First Utility in 2010, acquiring a 10 per cent stake. Industry observers have noted that this was the point that First Utility became determined to break the big six oligopoly.

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