E.ON waives retirement age to keep chief

Chairman asked to remain in post to oversee the restructuring of the £9bn energy company
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The Independent Online

Paul Golby, the long-serving chief executive and chairman of E.ON UK, has been asked to stay beyond the company's retirement age to complete a major restructuring of the £9bn-turnover business.

Energy industry insiders said that Dr Golby had said late last year that he would retire on his 60th birthday this year. However, Dusseldorf-based E.ON has waived its retirement cut-off and asked Dr Golby to continue to lead the 15,000-employee British division.

The major part of the restructuring is the sell-off of UK power distribution networks in a move expected to raise £3.5bn. Hong Kong businessman Li Ka-shing is trying to buy the assets through his Cheung Kong Infrastructure vehicle, although there is at least one more bidder. JP Morgan is handling the sale and Deutsche is acting for Mr Li.

The slimmed-down company would remain a big player in the UK through its power generation, which includes 21 wind farms, and £6.6bn-turnover retail divisions.

Coventry-based E.ON UK was bought by the German giant in July 2002 when it was known as Powergen. Dr Golby became its chief executive that year and is well-respected in the industry.

A boss of a leading energy company said that Dr Golby's "name has been mentioned" in relation to prominent non-executive roles should he retire.

Dr Golby is also chairman at EngineeringUK, the not-for-profit body that promotes the contribution of engineers and technology to the country. He was in the news last October when he took the decision to withdraw E.ON from the government's Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) demonstration competition. CCS traps and then buries carbon dioxide to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government is relying on CCS as one of the main methods of meeting stringent carbon-reduction targets. However, CCS has not been proven to be commercially viable and ministers intended that the competition would prove the private sector could establish an industry in the UK.

E.ON withdrew as completion of work on its Kingsnorth Power station in Kent, where CCS was to be piloted, was delayed to 2016, at least one year beyond the competition deadline.

Dr Golby said at the time: "Having postponed Kingsnorth last year, it has become clear that the economic conditions are still not right for us to progress the project and so, simply put, we have no power station on which to build a CCS demonstration."

This left Scottish Power, owned by Spanish utility Iberdrola, as the only candidate in the process.

Listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, E.ON is one of the world's biggest investor-owned power and gas companies with nearly 90,000 employees worldwide. In 2009 it made €82bn of sales and served 26 million customers in more than 30 countries.