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Gary Holden left the utility's top post after CBC News reported he had accepted a free trip to Europe from a German firm in 2008. ((CBC))

The controversial boss of Enmax is leaving the City of Calgary-owned utility, officials said late Friday morning.

The announcement came hours after CBC News revealed that Gary Holden accepted a trip to Europe from another company two years ago.

Holden's departure as president and CEO of Enmax is effective immediately, the company said in a statement.

"A number of recent events have become a significant distraction to the organization's ability to focus on things that are critical to its success. As CEO I want to do what is now clearly in everyone's best interest and that is to leave," Holden said in the release.

CBC News reported Friday that Holden travelled to the French Riviera in 2008 courtesy of a company that does business with Enmax.

Holden and other international executives were invited by German software company SAP to see the Monaco Grand Prix and attend business meetings. Enmax has a multi-million-dollar contract with SAP for its software.

Holden faced criticism

Mayor Naheed Nenshi's office released a statement on Friday about Holden's departure.

"The Board of Directors of Enmax, at my request, met last night and this morning to discuss the issues raised by the CBC yesterday," Nenshi said in the statement, adding that the city is satisfied with the overall direction of the company.

Enmax employees are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $100 without discussing it with their superiors. The company's annual report for 2008 states no exceptions to its ethics code were requested or granted.

CBC News requested an interview with Enmax board of directors chair Cliff Fryers about vendor-provided travel for its CEO, but he has refused comment.

In October last year it was revealed Holden was among the highest paid heads of any publicly-owned company or government agency in Alberta, collecting $2.4 million in 2008 and $2.7 million in 2009, including base pay and bonuses.

Company officials said an interim CEO would be announced presently while Enmax begins the process of finding a permanent replacement for Holden, who has been at the helm for five years.

"We are saddened to see Gary leave," Fryers said in a written statement. "Together with his executive team he has built Enmax into a formidable and innovative company."

Mexican executive also resigned after trip

Former Calgary alderman Ric McIver said the stories about Holden prove that aldermen shouldn't sit on the Enmax board of directors.

He said the two council appointees are supposed to protect the interests of Calgarians, but haven't been doing that.

"The board has everything to account for. The CEO reports to the board. I'm particularly saying if there was ever evidence that aldermen don't belong on that board, this is it," said McIver.

"City council was never briefed on trips to Monaco, on a whole range of other things — including the fact that the executive salaries were inaccurately reported in the annual report."

Ald. Brian Pincott, one of the two aldermen on the board, refused comment on the Monaco trip but said the resignation was a mutual decision.

"The board and Mr. Holden both reached the conclusion that his resignation was the right decision for the future of Enmax," Pincott said.

Friday's development mirrors a similar case in Mexico in 2009.

A senior executive with state-owned oil company Pemex resigned shortly after it was reported he had accepted a free trip to Monaco from SAP.

With files from the CBC's Scott Dippel