Chris Weston replaces Phil Bentley at British Gas

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CENTRICA has moved swiftly to resolve a dispute among senior management by putting its US retail boss Chris Weston in charge of British Gas.

He replaces Phil Bentley, who is standing down after six years in the job. Bentley – whose leaving date has not been confirmed – is widely reported to be quitting over a disagreement over the firm’s strategy.

The leadership change will come amid mounting public and political anger at British Gas – which trades as Scottish Gas north of the Border – after it hiked energy prices for around 8.5 million households at the end of last year, while parent group Centrica predicted profits of £1.4 billion for 2012.

It is expected to confirm details of Weston’s appointment alongside annual results on 27 February. It said the change at the top comes “as part of the succession planning and the strategic evolution of the company”. Weston joined the Centrica board in July 2009 when he became managing director of the group’s North America business, Direct Energy.

Bentley joined Centrica as group finance director 13 years ago before becoming British Gas managing director in 2007.

There has been mounting speculation over his departure after reports suggested he was at odds with group chief executive Sam Laidlaw, who wants British Gas to focus on new ways to promote growth in the face of creeping regulation.

But Angelos Anastasiou at Cantor Fitzgerald Research, said Bentley’s departure may signal that he feels “he has done as much as he can at Centrica, and is, perhaps, unlikely to be considered for the chief executive role in the foreseeable future”.

Experts predict pre-tax profits at Centrica’s British Gas residential arm will be around £575 million at its year end.