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Energy bosses to receive £110m reward after First Utility is bought by oil giant Shell for an estimated £240m

The three founders of an energy provider which set out to challenge the major firms are set for a stocking filler of more than £110 million this Christmas after a takeover by oil giant Shell.

First Utility was set up by entrepreneurs Darren Braham, 51, along with Mark Daeche and Marcus Citron, both 54, in 2008. The firm is now supplying gas, electricity and broadband to more than 825,000 homes.

The price paid by Anglo-Dutch Shell was not disclosed, but sources close to the deal told The Mail on Sunday it was about £240 million.

Daeche, who separated from his model wife Amanda Cronin earlier this year, is understood to own about 20 per cent of the company. Citron has a similar stake and the pair are set to receive about £48 million each.

Finance chief Braham is thought to own seven per cent and is in line for about £17 million.

The rest of the company is owned by about 80 other investors – mainly friends and family of the owners.

The founders and investors had previously been hoping for an even larger bonanza, however.

First Utility had previously been mulling a float on the London Stock Exchange. The idea was first mooted in 2014 when there had been hopes of a valuation of up to £500 million.

One investor told The Mail on Sunday the company’s value had been hit in recent years by mild weather and by new rivals entering the market.

Daeche, who previously worked for telecoms company Xitech and Fox Software International, was chief executive of First Utility until 2012 when he became a non-executive director. The Coventry-based company made a £9.6 million pre-tax loss in 2016 – down from a profit of £3.1 million – due to increased competition.

First Utility has a three per cent share of the residential market. It is the largest challenger to the Big Six energy providers – British Gas, EDF Energy, Npower, E.ON, ScottishPower and SSE.

The deal, which is expected to complete early next year, marks a major foray by Shell into the UK retail energy market. It has worked with First Utility for a number of years as a ‘strategic trading partner’.

In 2015, First Utility agreed a deal to supply the German energy market under the Shell brand. The challenge from Shell piles pressure on the Big Six, which have had a tough year. British Gas owner Centrica’s share price fell 40 per cent this year – more than any other FTSE 100 company. In September, a record 160,000 customers switched to smaller rivals.

Last month, SSE, the second largest energy supplier, agreed a merger with Npower.

Ben Wilson of GoCompare Energy said: ‘Hopefully next year will see households benefit from more competition driving down prices and improving service.’

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