Business

Bulb boss to leave collapsed UK energy supplier

Bulb chief executive Hayden Wood will leave the collapsed British energy supplier at the end of July, as the UK government hopes to seal a sale of the group which was bailed out by taxpayers.

Wood had stayed on at Bulb after it was placed into “special administration” last year and propped up with a UK taxpayer loan, initially of £1.7bn.

His continued presence at the company raised eyebrows given the scale of the rescue — it was the UK’s biggest taxpayer bailout of a company since government interventions in Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS in 2008.

He has been criticised by MPs for continuing to receive a taxpayer-funded salary of £250,000 as he assisted special administrators from Teneo in finding a buyer. Bulb is Britain’s seventh biggest energy retailer, with around 1.5mn customers.

The company said: “Bulb’s CEO and co-founder, Hayden Wood is stepping back from the business. We wish him all the best for the future.”

Staff were informed at an internal briefing on Thursday that Wood would depart at the end of July. One person familiar with the matter said he would not receive a severance package.

A former management consultant, Wood co-founded Bulb with former Barclays energy trader Amit Gudka in 2015 as a challenger to the dominance of what at the time were known as the “big six” energy retailers — British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, SSE and Scottish Power.

The firm grew rapidly, helped by special offers for customers who referred a friend and by a single tariff that often undercut the rest of the market. Bulb was criticised by rivals who suspected it had inadequate hedging in place to survive sudden upswings in wholesale energy prices.

That theory turned out to be true at the start of 2021 when wholesale gas prices began to soar. Bulb initially sought new sources of external funding and then tried to sell itself to industry rivals before finally admitting to the regulator Ofgem last November that it could no longer continue as a going concern. At a parliamentary hearing in April, Wood apologised to MPs for the “way things turned out” with the company.

The UK government is in the process of trying to auction off the group. Centrica, the owner of British Gas, pulled out of the race this month, leaving UK rival Octopus Energy and Masdar, an energy company from Abu Dhabi, as the only two confirmed bidders in the running.

No replacement CEO has been appointed. Wood’s roles will be divided among the remaining executive team.

The company has continued to rack up losses and costs for consumers since entering administration, with Bulb making an £886mn loss in the six months since nationalisation, according to reports from administrators released earlier this month.

Scores of creditors, many of them small businesses, are owed £585mn and are unlikely to be paid.

But Sequoia, an infrastructure fund, which is backed by Simple, Bulb’s parent company, is guaranteed to receive its original £55mn investment and has earned a £10mn dividend since November.

Teneo, which is running the administration process, is expected to receive tens of millions of pounds, while Lazards, which is handling the sale, is expected to receive £1.5mn.

Including Bulb, 30 UK energy supplies have collapsed in the past year, leading to criticism of regulator Ofgem’s oversight of the sector.

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