The pressure cooker has exploded at Centrica as British Gas boss Chris Weston quits for Aggreko

Chris Weston is the second Centrica executive to get out of the energy industry this year, while the company is reportedly searching for a successor for boss Sam Laidlaw.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 12 Aug 2014

- Read MT’s interview with Centrica boss Sam Laidlaw from the April 2014 issue

After six months of populist pressure over rising energy bills, it looks like British Gas boss Chris Weston has decided he can’t take the heat any more after he quit to head up temporary power provider Aggreko.

That leaves parent company Centrica, which has issued two profit warnings in six months, in the awkward position of having to replace not one but three of its top executives. Chief exec Sam Laidlaw is reportedly on the way out (although that’s yet to be officially confirmed by the company) and finance chief Nick Luff announced in January he was also getting out of the energy industry to head up finance at publishers Reed Elsevier.

Ian Conn, a senior BP exec, is reported to have been offered the top job at Centrica, but the appointment has yet to be agreed. Negotiations are sticking, in part, over Conn’s £16m-worth of performance-related share bonuses, according to Sky News. Buying the head of BP’s downstream business out of that would probably cause politicians to implode in self-righteous anger, particularly after Laidlaw dramatically gave up his bonus on stage at the CBI conference last year.

Weston, who came under fire for not giving up his bonus, is understood to have also been interviewed to replace Laidlaw, but was passed over due to doubts about his leadership experience, according to the Telegraph. With shares at Aggreko, which has powered everything from the London Olympics to Glastonbury, down 2.74% in mid-morning trading, it looks like investors aren’t so sure either.

It’s all been a bit musical chairs at Aggreko too, since Rupert Soames stood down this month to lead embattled outsourcer Serco. Interim chief exec and former CFO Angus Cockburn is heading out the door once Weston’s in, after 14 years at the power company, to ‘seek fresh challenges’. Meanwhile, interim CFO Carole Cran gets to stay in her chair permanently.

Back at Centrica, shareholders seemed somewhat relieved that the leadership transition is at least on its way to getting resolved, sending shares up a modest 0.75% this morning. And with a competition inquiry into Centrica and its ‘Big Six’ rivals underway, investors are probably getting used to regular blow-ups in the energy industry.

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