Spottiswoode may quit after just three months with Enron

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The Independent Online
CLARE SPOTTISWOODE, Britain's former gas industry regulator, is discussing a departure from Enron's European water company, Azurix, less than three months after joining the US group as its senior vice president of regulatory affairs for Europe.

Ms Spottiswoode, who stepped aside as director general of gas supply last October, was awarded a CBE in the New Years Honours List for her four year stint. Her current destination however remains a mystery. Analysts speculated that she may be seeking to rejoin the gas sector with a big company appointment.

Enron, the American energy giant, created Azurix by buying Wessex Water for pounds 1.4bn last July. A spokeswoman for Azurix said yesterday: "Clare Spottiswoode and Azurix have been in discussions about opportunities with another organisation.

"The organisation is not within Enron. The talks are very preliminary and have not been finalised. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time."

Some City analysts speculated that Ms Spottiswoode may have fallen out with Rebecca Mark, Azurix's Texan chairman and chief executive, who like the former regulator is a strong character.

The Azurix spokeswoman said, however: "We're very pleased with Clare. Obviously business opportunities do pop up from time to time and they do need to be pursued."

The spokeswoman added that Ms Spottiswoode, who joined Azurix last October, is still an Enron employee. Azurix has headquarters in both London and Houston.

Enron has already built gas-fired power stations in the UK, such as the one at the ICI plant at Wilton on Teesside and last summer it launched a pan-European water subsidiary, Azurix. Ms Spottiswoode was hired to deal with regulatory issues arising in its target areas of expansion, including Europe, the Middle East and Far East.

The departure of a senior regulator to a company operating in a heavily regulated industry caused raised eyebrows in Westminster and Whitehall when it was announced last autumn but Ms Spottiswoode's job at Azurix was cleared by the Nolan Committee, which oversees job moves by former senior civil servants.

Enron was at the forefront of last year's lobbying campaign by the gas- fired power generators against the Government's moratorium on building gas-fired station, in an attempt to protect Britain's remaining coal mining industry. The company has applications outstanding to build another two gas-fired stations in the UK.

Coincidentally the power industry is also awaiting Stephen Littlechild's next move, now that he has finished as the electricity industry's regulator at Offer. There is speculation that he may join an electricity group of some kind.