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Chairman and chief executive step down from British Gas owner Centrica

Chairman Charles Berry has been on medical leave for over a month, while chief executive Iain Conn said last year he would step down at a later date.

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Iain Conn has been at the helm of Centrica since 2015 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Iain Conn has been at the helm of Centrica since 2015 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Iain Conn has been at the helm of Centrica since 2015 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Two of the top bosses at Britain’s largest energy supplier, Centrica, have stepped down, leaving their successors to deal with the volatility caused by coronavirus.

Chief executive Iain Conn and chairman Charles Berry have both resigned from the British Gas owner with immediate effect, the company announced on Tuesday.

Neither departure is likely to come as a surprise to investors. Mr Berry has been on medical leave since the beginning of February, while Mr Conn had already said he would step down this year.

Finance director Chris O’Shea is set to step into Mr Conn’s shoes until a permanent successor can be found, Centrica said.

Meanwhile, Mr Berry, who was told by doctors to reduce his workload, will hand over to long-time board member Scott Wheway.

“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,” Mr Wheway said.

“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 businessesScott Wheway, Centrica

Mr Wheway acknowledged that his first task would be to find a permanent replacement for Mr Conn, promising to look at candidates both from inside and outside the company.

His job will be to find someone willing to take on what can be a tough role at times.

Since being appointed around half a decade ago, Mr Conn has several times been in the firing line of politicians, customers and his own shareholders.

His replacement will take over with the British Gas owner in very poor shape. Shares are down by around 80% since he took over in 2015.

Mr Conn took the reins during a period when the Big Six energy companies’ stranglehold on the supply market was being loosened.

Smaller suppliers, such as Bulb, Ovo and Octopus, none of which even existed much more than a decade ago, have eaten into the dominance of British Gas.

According to Ofgem data, British Gas’s share of the energy market has dropped from 24% to 19% since the beginning of 2015.

Mr Wheway said: “As a business we remain focused on structural simplification, improving our efficiency and delivering growth in our customer-facing businesses.”

PA