Drax Group has a controversial new boss

 
Emma Haslett
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Wind Turbines Erected Next To Europe's Biggest Coal Powered Power Station
Drax has shifted from coal to renewables in recent years (Source: Getty)

Dorothy Thompson, the chief executive of what was once Europe's largest coal-fired power station, is stepping down, the company said today, to be replaced by its controversial finance boss.

Thompson will step down as chief executive of Drax Group at the end of this year, after 12 years in the post, the company said today.

Thompson has played a major part in overseeing the company's shift from coal to biomass: the power station, which generates seven per cent of the UK's electricity and 16 per cent of its renewable energy, is now 70 per cent powered by wood pellets.

She will be replaced by chief financial officer Will Gardiner, who joined the company at the end of 2015. Gardiner has previously held roles at CSR and Sky.

Earlier this year Gardiner's pay packet, which amounts to £971,000 including a £479,000 bonus, was described as "excessive" by a shareholder advisory group, leading more than a third of shareholders to vote against the company's remuneration report at its annual general meeting.

However, today Thompson insisted he was the right man for the job.

"I retire knowing the group is in excellent shape: it has the right strategy, the right team and in Will, the right leader," she said.

Philip Cox, the company's chairman, added: "[Gardiner] has been a key architect of our new strategy and is a focused, innovative and engaging leader.

"His appointment is a natural progression after two years working alongside Dorothy developing an ambitious strategy which I am confident will create significant benefits for all Drax's stakeholders."

Gardiner said: "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."

Shares in Drax Group rose 1.4 per cent to 314.8p in early trading.

Read more: Drax swings to loss as it looks to repurpose coal assets

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