Belfast Telegraph

Drax CEO Dorothy Thompson to step down after 12 years in charge

The FTSE 250 company has appointed chief financial officer Will Gardiner to take Ms Thompson’s place.

One of Britain’s few female chief executives is stepping down after 12 years at the head of UK energy firm Drax.

The FTSE 250 company confirmed that Dorothy Thompson – who was appointed in 2005 – has decided to leave the company by year-end and will be replaced by chief financial officer Will Gardiner from January 1.

It ends the tenure of one of Britain’s few female company heads, particularly in the energy industry.

There are only 10 female CEOs across the FTSE 250, according to 2017 data from the Professional Boards Forum’s BoardWatch.

There are six female chiefs in the FTSE 100.

Drax Group generates around 7% of the UK’s electricity and owns a coal and biomass-fired power plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.

Chairman Philip Cox thanked Ms Thompson – who also serves as a non-executive director for the Bank of England – for her “enormous contribution” to the firm.

“She transformed the business during her tenure and leaves the group in a strong position with a clear strategy that lays the foundations for further success in a changing energy sector.”

Her successor joined the board as finance chief in November 2015, having served as chief financial officer of global semiconductor business CSR, a divisional finance director at BSkyB, and finance head of network and telecoms firm Easynet Group.

Drax said it was launching a search for Mr Gardiner’s replacement.

Investors appeared unmoved by news of the executive changeover, with shares relatively flat at 315.5p.

Mr Gardiner faced shareholder ire earlier this year when a third of investors voted against the company’s executive pay report amid concerns of the finance director’s share awards.

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Drax power station

Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) had urged investors to object to the remuneration report, flagging Mr Gardiner’s bonus-matching awards as “excessive”.

The finance chief is in line for 358,567 shares worth £1.355 million under the company’s bonus-matching plan, which will vest in 2019 and be based on the company share value that year.

Mr Gardiner’s total pay reached £971,000 for 2016, while Ms Thompson’s rose 26% to £1.5 million.

Mr Gardiner said: “I am thrilled to be appointed as group chief executive at this exciting time for Drax.

“The changes we are seeing in the UK energy sector are unprecedented and we have an opportunity to thrive while doing the right thing for the UK energy market.

“Drax’s people have demonstrated repeatedly their ability to deliver transformational change and I’m delighted to be working with them to build on Dorothy’s strong legacy.”

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