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New chairman and interim CEO announced as Centrica’s senior management is shaken up

Image: Centrica.

Image: Centrica.

Centrica’s board is seeing major change as Charles Berry steps down as Centrica chairman, and Iain Conn officially steps down as CEO.

Conn’s departure from the company was first announced last July, following the Centrica's interim results which showed its adjusted operating profit for the six months ended 30 June 2019 fell by 49% year-on-year to £399 million. This triggered a 58% cut to the interim dividend, and caused the company’s share price to fall to a 22-year low.

As of today (17 March), Chris O’Shea, currently chief financial officer (CFO), is taking over as interim CEO. He has been with the company since November 2018, having previously held CFO positions at Smiths Group and Vesuvius.

Conn, who is also stepping down from the Board, will remain available until the Annual General Meeting on 11 May 2020, the company said.

Berry has been on medical leave since 12 February, but has now tendered his resignation as Centrica’s chairman. The Board today wished him a swift recovery, and Berry added that “it has been a great honour to Chair Centrica, but when the doctor tells you to reduce your workload, you are wise to listen. I wish everyone at Centrica great success in the future".

The company, which owns UK supplier British Gas, has announced that Scott Wheway, who has been a non-executive director at the company since 2016 and has been acting chairman over the last month, will take over today.

Wheway said: “I’m acutely aware that I’m taking this role at a time when we need to navigate our way through the current volatility caused by the impact of Coronavirus. Protecting our employees and customers is a priority for us, particularly those who are vulnerable. As a business we remain focused on structural simplification, improving our efficiency and delivering growth in our customer facing businesses."

He confirmed that he would be concentrating on finding a permanent CEO for Centrica, but welcomed O’Shea, who he said had “a strong track record of cost efficiency and financial discipline".

Wheway also thanked Conn as he left for his “continued commitment and resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges during his tenure as CEO".

The company’s financial woes have continued throughout the last few years, as its customer base continues to fall. In February, its full year results showed it slumped to an £849 million loss in 2019, following on from a disastrous 2018, which saw the company’s shares fall by more than 10% to a 20-year low of 122.85.

Centrica blamed Ofgem’s energy price cap for creating a “challenging environment”, but the company's current performance - and the future direction it seems to be heading in - could be seen as emblematic of the energy transition in the UK.

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