Founder departs as Chris Gauld assumes CEO role
Spark Energy – Chris Gauld
Spark Energy, the Selkirk-based utilities company today (17th March 2014) announced a major restructure at senior level reflecting their rapid growth and future ambitions on the active ‘small supplier’ scene.
PJ Darling, the company’s founder, is standing down from his position as CEO. The Canadian-born entrepreneur will remain as a non-executive director in the short term and will continue to consult to the business.
Managing director Chris Gauld (35), who has been with Spark since its founding in 2007, takes over as CEO leading the group in its next phase of growth and diversification.
Spark chairman Sir Timothy Noble said:
“After setting up the company in 2007 and guiding it to its present position, PJ has decided he wishes to revert to the role of being an entrepreneur in a small business again. The fact that the company now has close to 100,000 properties supplied, a likely turnover of £80m this year, and over 200 employees is a tribute to his vision.
“Spark must be almost unique in Britain in having raised equity investment of more than £12m over the last five years to finance its progress and also survive financial storms, in part caused by external political factors over which the company had little control, and PJ Darling led that process. He will continue to work full time for Spark until the end of April and will be a non-executive director until then at least. We wish him well in the future.
“In Chris Gauld, we have a new CEO who typifies a young and dynamic leader, who has worked tirelessly for the company over the last seven years, initially as sales director and then as managing director since January 2009. He will take us on to the next level in a new exciting future.”
In January, Spark Energy revealed that it had secured a landmark deal by entering into a wholesale trading agreement for the first time with leading wholesale energy trader, Morgan Stanley Commodities – resulting in all of its electricity and gas being supplied by Morgan Stanley at competitive prices, enabling the fast-growing energy company to access wholesale markets while continuing to provide its customers with some of the cheapest energy prices in the market.
In return for agreeing to buy its wholesale gas and electricity from Morgan Stanley Commodities, Spark Energy obtained access to long term hedging and supply arrangements for its core commodities on extended payment terms and on a collateral-free basis.
The company continues to provide a unique utilities solution to largest high street letting agents in the UK as well as to its online and prepayment customers.
Chris Gauld said:
“PJ has played an important part in my career and that of our 200 staff, it has been a pleasure to work with him in building this business. We are proud of what we have achieved to date, aware of where we could have done better and excited about the future. I am already putting together strategic plans for 2014/15 and the management structures to deliver it.
“Next year we are forecasting £130m turnover and growth in exciting new markets supplemented with new products and technologies. While we haven’t always got it right in the past, our customers currently rate us 4.2 out of 5 stars and we were delighted to rank higher than all of the Big Six in the recent Which? Customer Satisfaction Survey. Given we also offer market leading tariffs across a range of payment options I believe that we are exactly the sort of company that this market desperately needs.
“This is a difficult time to be running an energy company, especially at the smaller end of the scale, but we are greatly encouraged by Ofgem’s initiatives to increase transparency of the wholesale trading arrangements of the Big Six, to increase speed of switching for customers and to increase competition generally.
“With the right support, there are great opportunities for the smaller suppliers to lead the necessary changes in the retail energy market and I hope that the political and regulatory environment can start to support that cause.
“Small suppliers have a critical role to play in improving the choice, service and transparency which the industry has been lacking in the past. In my view, not enough has been done to support small suppliers and to ensure a level playing field. It’s been an uphill struggle for us to enter this complex and high risk industry and to truly challenge the established Big Six without having to compromise on service and price. Margins are small and finance is difficult to come by but I’m delighted that we have reached our current stage.
“Any steps that open up choice in the market for the benefit of consumers is good news.”