Outlook: PowerGen

THERE ARE plenty of ex-PowerGen executives who can testify to Ed Wallis's decisive style of management. Over the years, he's fired more directors than you could shake a stick at. Yesterday their ranks were swelled by a further three as the trio at the top of East Midlands Electricity, Ed's latest acquisition, mysteriously chose not to take up his offer of continued employment.

But now, apparently, the old bruiser has turned over a new leaf. Bizarrely, he yesterday insisted that in future he would like to be known as "avuncular Uncle Ed" (seriously). Once upon a time, anybody who did not share Ed's conviction was not long for this world. But now consensus is to be his middle name. He even volunteers the information that the nine-strong committee of executives that runs PowerGen once overruled their executive chairman on a strategic business investment.

Perhaps Ed has learnt from the spot of bother Sir Richard Greenbury has landed himself in. Macho management only pays for so long. But at some point you have to begin planning the succession. Finding a successor is a bit like contracting to buy power station coal, a business that Mr Wallis knows rather more about. If you leave it until the last minute of the 11th hour, there is every danger of falling off a cliff edge rather than engineering a smooth transition.

Ed has identified three candidates from the executive ranks to whom he could pass the baton. At the moment, the favoured one looks to be Nick Baldwin, executive director of UK operations. But as many a former colleague could no doubt vouch, Uncle Ed can be a mercurial character. No wonder Mr Baldwin looked a mixture of bashfulness and sheer terror yesterday.

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