Contenders jostle for top post at Contact

SECONDED Contact Energy executive David Hunt – presently with Origin Energy in Sydney – is believed to a top contender for Contact’s top job once current chief executive Steve Barrett returns to his native United States.

The Contact corporate development manager was posted to Origin’s Sydney office late last year following Origin’s successful acquisition of Edison Mission Energy’s majority shareholding (51.2%) in the New Zealand-listed company.

Then last February Origin chief executive Grant King appointed Hunt to the new position of corporate development manager within the Australian energy giant. Hunt – one of seven senior managers – became responsible for planning, commodity risk reporting, asset management, public and government affairs and investor relations.

Now market observers – who expect an Origin or Contact executive to be appointed to replace Barrett – say the politically astute and well-connected Hunt is among those favoured to take the helm at Contact once Barrett’s one-year contract expires later this year.

They say Hunt, who knows the New Zealand energy industry intimately, was one of Barrett’s closest advisers. Hunt’s previous stints as economic advisor to Finance Ministers and energy policy manager at Treasury before joining Contact in 1996 make him a firm favourite.

Another possible NZ contender is Contact’s current trading manager Stephen Cross, who also has had a long energy career as well as spending time in merchant banking.

The Contact board has three Origin directors – chairman King, Australian operations manager Karen Moses and former commercial director Bruce Beeren - and three independent directors.

Barrett, a former EME executive, is due to depart in September but could leave Contact earlier.