Company announcements tend to be dull but logical. So you sit up and take notice when you read one that makes little sense. Centrica tells us that: “Phil Bentley will be leaving the company …to pursue his ambition to become a chief executive, recognising that this role is not currently available to him within the organisation.”

Mr Bentley is managing director of British Gas, Centrica’s domestic energy business. The role of chief executive is self-evidently unavailable, as incumbent Sam Laidlaw has not finished with it yet.

The usual strategy for an aspirant top dog in this situation is to leave after securing a brilliant chief executive’s position somewhere else. Step down before, and you reduce your chances rather than increase them.

Centrica’s odd explanation for the departure of Mr Bentley (albeit with 10 months’ notice) make rumours of a rift with Mr Laidlaw harder to ignore.

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