TEMPORARY power group Aggreko named British Gas boss Chris Weston its new chief executive today, sparking City concerns of a power vacuum at the top of parent company Centrica.
Glasgow-based Aggreko also said that former finance chief Angus Cockburn – interim chief executive since previous boss Rupert Soames left recently to run outsourcing firm Serco – is planning to leave later this year.
Ken Hanna, Aggreko’s chairman, said Weston “has consistently succeeded in driving performance and growth in his career and we believe he has the skills and vision to continue Aggreko’s growth and lead the group to the next level”.
Weston, head of international “downstream” operations which includes the British/Scottish Gas business, is the second big-name departure from the Centrica board in five months as the group battles public anger over soaring energy bills.
Centrica finance director Nick Luff has announced he is leaving to join publisher Reed Elsevier later this year, and there is strong speculation that chief executive Sam Laidlaw is to leave.
One utilities analyst said: “It looks like Centrica could be searching for a chief executive, finance director and British Gas managing director simultaneously. That looks like a serious power vacuum at the top of the company.”
Laidlaw said he was “sorry to see [Weston] leave but recognise that Aggreko offers a great opportunity for him”. The City believes Weston decided to look elsewhere after being passed over as a possible successor to Laidlaw.
Long-term BP executive Iain Conn is reportedly in talks about joining Centrica as chief executive. Analysts said today that they did not believe Conn’s £16 million of performance-related share awards at BP would be a major stumbling block to his possible appointment.
There is also speculation that the next boss of British Gas will be female – a first for the business that hoisted prices 9.2 per cent on average last November. The leading internal candidates to replace Weston are understood to be Nina Bhatia, British Gas’ commercial director, and Susan Hooper, who runs British Gas Services.
Meanwhile, Aggreko said Cockburn had told the board he was not applying for the top job because, after 14 years with the business, he was “keen to seek fresh challenges”.
Carole Cran, who has been acting finance chief since Soames’s departure, becomes chief financial officer,
Weston, pictured, who took charge of British Gas last year following the departure of Phil Bentley, commented: “Aggreko is a fascinating business and I’m very excited to be taking on this role.
“I have watched and admired Aggreko’s tremendous growth over recent years and I look forward to working with Carole and the entire management team to develop the company further in the coming years.