Turmoil in Centrica’s boardroom worsens as heir apparent quits  

Centrica’s chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, wants to leave, its finance director, Nick Luff, is quitting, and now British Gas’s chief executive, Chris Weston, is off to become chief executive at Aggreko

Deputy Business Editor

The boss of British Gas was on the verge of quitting on Wednesday night after coming under repeated fire for high energy bills and massive bonuses.

News of his departure threw the parent company Centrica into yet deeper turmoil and gave rise to talk that the public anger over bills was driving executives out of the industry.

Centrica’s chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, wants to leave, its finance director, Nick Luff, is quitting, and now British Gas’s chief executive, Chris Weston, is off to become chief executive at the temporary power generators group Aggreko.

Mr Weston, 50, had been seen as a potential successor to Mr Laidlaw as Centrica’s chief executive, but he is quitting for what will be a far quieter posting. He only lasted in the British Gas role for a little over a year.

He has been repeatedly calling for less confrontation from politicians over energy prices, declaring in March that the “political consensus” over energy had broken down.

The industry is facing its biggest investigation ever by the Competition and Markets Authority to assess whether the big players have too monopolistic a grip and excessive power over pricing. The Big Six have 95 per cent of the market and, as by far the biggest player, Centrica/British Gas has been in the front of the line of fire.

The Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, meanwhile, has accused Centrica of failing to invest enough in the UK’s energy infrastructure.

It has been speculated that Mr Laidlaw’s post could be filled by Iain Conn, BP’s head of marketing and refining, but some sources cautioned that such a deal was less imminent than Mr Weston’s move. “That’s quite speculative,” the source said.

Mr Weston’s departure means another headache for Centrica’s new chairman, Rick Haythornthwaite, who now has to fill the three most senior positions on his board.

Mr Weston will surely come in for less public criticism at Aggreko than Centrica, where he has been vilified for getting a £401,000 cash bonus – announced just days after the company issued a profit warning. He was also criticised for failing to turn up in person to explain price rises to the Energy Select Committee, sending his deputy instead.

The intense scrutiny and controversy over Centrica’s behaviour and the energy industry in general is thought to have played a part in the executives’ reasons for wanting to leave.

As for Mr Conn, Sky News reported that his appointment to run Centrica was being held up by negotiations around his shareholding in BP, where he has worked since 1986. He has about £3m in BP shares and additional performance-related awards totalling about £16m. Traditionally, the company hiring such an executive would buy them out of their yet-to-be awarded share schemes, but given Centrica’s high public profile that could be politically difficult.

Sam Laidlaw recently gave his bonus to charity rather than face public scorn at a time of rising fuel poverty for many British Gas customers.

Mr Conn is a senior figure in British industry, holding grandee positions at the CBI and various other high-profile business and trade organisations. He recently took up a non-executive post at BT and is dropping a long-standing non-executive directorship at Rolls-Royce.

It was not clear as The Independent went to press when Mr Weston’s departure was likely to be announced, with sources suggesting it was extremely imminent.

Mr Weston’s move will be seen as a coup for Aggreko, whose chief executive Rupert Soames quit after 11 years to run the troubled outsourcing group Serco. Speculation has it that Mr Soames wants to bring his old Aggreko finance director with him, meaning Mr Weston could have to act quickly to find a replacement when he arrives.

Angus Cockburn has been working as interim chief executive at Aggreko in Mr Soames’ absence.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year