British Gas chief Bentley in line for explosive £13m pay-off
MD who has overseen huge price hikes set to leave after ‘bust-up’ with parent company Centrica
THE HEAD of British Gas, who has presided over an 84 per cent increase in the average domestic bill during his seven years at the helm, is set to leave the utility company this year with a pay-off estimated to be worth as much as £13 million.
Phil Bentley, managing director of British Gas since 2006, will quit this year as part of a management overhaul. According to the Daily Mail, his 'golden goodbye' could feature a year's salary (£635,000), a bonus worth £399,000, a pension pot of £3.6m and £8.3m of shares.
The paper notes that "as millions endure the greatest squeeze on living standards since the 1920s... 53-year-old Mr Bentley's potential windfall would be enough to pay a typical family's gas and electricity bill for 9,500 years".
Labour energy spokesman Tom Greatrex told the paper: "British Gas customers, who have seen their bills soar on Phil Bentley’s watch, will be astonished at the level of his pay-off... it will strike many as an obscene level of reward."
Bentley, whose above-inflation price hikes have angered consumer groups, is understood to be quitting after a falling-out – or "strategic bust-up" as the Daily Telegraph puts it - with Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of Centrica, British Gas's parent company.
The news could have ramifications in Westminster. "British Gas is a lightning rod for criticism over rising household bills," reports The Guardian, which also notes: "Bentley's imminent departure comes amid mounting political pressure on the government to tackle rising household bills."
Trade union members are also said to be angry – not about Bentley’s alleged pay-off, but about the fact that he’s going at all. The GMB Union told Utility Week that the timing of the announcement was "nonsensical" and that industrial relations had been "much better" under Bentley than other bosses.
"It is damaging morale in the middle of winter, which is the busiest time for the engineers," said a spokesman.