Fife boss of British Gas owner Centrica grilled over £4.5m pay in TV interview

Chris O’Shea, the Fife-born boss of British Gas owner Centrica, has admitted he cannot justify his huge £4.5 million salary.

Mr O’Shea, who was born in Kirkcaldy and raised in Glenrothes, was grilled about his pay packet on BBC Breakfast.

His confirmed salary last year was £4.5 million, comprised of his base salary, a bonus and long term shares.

Appointed CEO of Centrica – the parent company of British Gas in 2020 – Mr O’Shea received a £1.3 million bonus in February 2023 after the company reported profits of £3.3 billion.

British Gas boss: I can’t justify £4.5m salary

Around 850,000 households in Scotland are said to be living in fuel poverty, while some 23% are classed as living in “extreme fuel poverty” – meaning they spend more than 20% of their income after housing costs on utility bills.

Quizzed by presenter Charlie Stayt about his pay while so many struggle to afford their electricity and gas bills, the CEO admitted it was unjustifiable.

Chris O’Shea on BBC Breakfast.
Chris O’Shea quizzed by Charlie Stayt, second from left. Image: BBC

“It’s a huge amount of money, I am incredibly fortunate,” he said.

“I don’t set my own pay, that’s set by our remuneration committee. That’s the first bonus I’ve taken in my time at Centrica, I’d given up bonuses because of hardships customers were facing.

Fife-born British Gas/Centrica boss Chris O'Shea with former Prime Minister Liz Truss
Centrica CEO Chris O’Shea with former prime minister Liz Truss.
Centrica - owner of British Gas - CEO Chris O'Shea, who is from Fife.
Chris O’Shea’s salary rocketed to £4.5m in 2023 – even as many struggle to pay their bills. Image: Centrica

“I thought it was right we put a lot of our profits into supporting customers. But you can’t justify a salary of that size.”

Pressed on why accepts the salary, Mr O’Shea told presenter Charlie Stayt: “The average wage in the UK is about £30,000.

“It’s not for me to set my own pay, but you’ve got to recognise that when you’ve got people that are struggling, when I look at my mum who is on the basic state pension, it’s just impossible to justify. So there is no point trying to do that.”

‘Impressively candid’

Mr O’Shea’s honesty about his salary was praised by some, who took to social media to thank him for being “impressively candid”.

One used said: “This is impressively candid, I doff my cap to him.”

Posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, a second person said how he spends the money is more important than his honesty.

He added: “The only way to justify taking home such significant sums if you use it, and the power it brings, to level the playing field.

“If it’s sunk into making even more money then the honesty is a smokescreen.”

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