Tuesday 17 January 2017

O'Doherty surprise choice among internal candidates for ESB job

Emmet Oliver, Deputy Business Editor

Published 27/10/2011 | 05:00

The board of the ESB yesterday caused surprise within the company by appointing an internal candidate who was not the frontrunner over recent months, as chief executive.

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Pat O'Doherty was battling for the €318,000-a-year post with strongly favoured frontrunner and deputy CEO John Shine, but to the surprise of many within the company Mr O'Doherty was formally appointed yesterday.

Mr O'Doherty, a Dubliner, is current executive director of ESB's international division and has been with the company since 1981.

He has worked in virtually every division of the company. The decision to overlook Mr Shine was seen by some as a setback to current chief executive Padraig McManus, who has worked closely with Mr Shine over recent years.

However other sources said Mr Shine's age might have counted against him and played to Mr O'Doherty's advantage.

As first predicted in the Irish Independent, the company was never likely to appoint an outside candidate, even though the main challenge of 2012 will be to sell a minority stake in the company to a private sector player.

Mr O'Doherty has no background in M&A work, but is seen as highly versed in the generation side of the ESB's business and has strong experience of industrial relations, which is seen as a vital condition for any ESB chief executive.

Reaction to Mr O'Doherty's appointment was one of surprise. Current and former staff of the company told the Irish Independent Mr Shine was the "presumed" successor to Mr McManus.

"Pat is a very friendly and approachable man, but his managerial record is not as well known as Shine's within the company,'' was the reaction of one.

Another employee said Mr O'Doherty was close to the company's union bloc and that would make it hard for him to introduce important reforms.

Another observer said Mr O'Doherty would try and re-build relations with the Government and would go about his business quietly. With a lower pay packet than Mr McManus, the whole issue of remuneration would no longer be as much of a distraction, said another senior executive.

The sub-committee of the board was led by chairman Lochlann Quinn and the decision to appoint Mr O'Doherty was approved during a board meeting yesterday. The starting date for Mr O'Doherty was not released.

"I am delighted and honoured by the opportunity to work with the board and to lead management and employees of this great company," said Mr O'Doherty.

The head of the ESB union group Brendan Ogle welcomed the appointment, saying he was an experienced and knowledgeable executive within the company. "I won't look forward to negotiating with Pat O'Doherty, but I know he will have the interests of the company at heart.''

ESB is currently trying to cut €140m from the payroll and Mr Ogle described the atmosphere within the company as difficult as a result. "The wrong appointment now would have made the challenge of making these savings impossible, this appointment just leaves resolving these problems extremely difficult,'' he said.

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