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British Gas owner Centrica on hunt for new chairman

Rick Haythornthwaite has informed the board of plans to leave the role within the next 12 months.

British Gas owner Centrica is on the hunt for a new chairman after confirming that its boss of nearly six years will step down within the next 12 months.

The company announced on Tuesday that Rick Haythornthwaite has informed the board of plans to leave the role and that the process to appoint a successor is now under way.

Mr Haythornthwaite will stay on until a new appointment has been made.

The chairman will have served on the board for more than half a decade by the time he steps down, having become a non-executive director in October 2013 and chairman in January 2014.

“Chairing Centrica has been a real privilege, and the group has made material progress against a challenging external environment, including significant fundamental changes in the energy landscape,” Mr Haythornthwaite said.

He added that his tenure has been marked with the appointment of new chief executive Iain Conn, the development of a new strategy and “significant changes to Centrica’s portfolio and capabilities.”

“The first phase of strategic implementation has been completed, the board has been refreshed and the balance sheet materially strengthened.

“I am immensely grateful to my fellow board members for their support and hard work during my tenure as chairman and I look forward in time to an orderly handover to my successor.”

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FTSE 100 photos

Centrica shares were down nearly 0.8% in morning trading.

The changeover comes as the energy market prepares for a government-enforced price cap set to be introduced on standard variable tariffs (SVTs) later this year amid anger over rising bills.

Last month, British Gas said it would increase energy bills for 4.1 million dual fuel customers on its standard variable tariff (SVT) by an average of 5.5%, or £60 a year, to around £1,161 for a typical dual fuel customer.

The company blamed initiatives such as the smart meter roll-out and schemes to reduce carbon emissions as well as wholesale energy costs for sparking the rise.

The Government came out swinging, with Energy Minister Claire Perry describing the hike as “unjustified” and urging customers to switch suppliers.

British Gas announced plans in November to scrap SVTs for new customers ahead of the cap, which Centrica has warned could have “unintended consequences” for the market.

It said all existing customers are now being “contacted to encourage them to choose one of our fixed-term deals”.

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