THE HAGUE May 21 Royal Dutch/Shell CEO
Peter Voser may be making his last appearance on the podium at
the company's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, turning the
spotlight on management's plans for a successor.
Voser announced his surprise decision three weeks ago to
step down in the first half of 2014, before his 56th birthday,
and less than five years into the role.
Employees of the 180-year old Anglo-Dutch group, which
traditionally grows its own top executives, believe an import is
unlikely to get the top job, but Voser is only the second person
to hold the CEO role under a simplified corporate structure
introduced in 2005.
Shell's chairman Jorma Ollila, who will run Tuesday's AGM,
also chairs the three-man nomination and succession committee
that will choose Voser's replacement.
The other two members, drawn from the ranks of Shell's
non-executive directors, are Josef Ackermann, the former
Deutsche Bank chief, and Hans Wijers, who ran Dutch chemicals
group Akzo Nobel until 2012.
Voser has been a pillar of Shell's new-found stability since
he re-joined the company as finance director in October 2004 as
part of a wholesale clear-out of disgraced former top
He leaves Shell with a leading global production and
technology position in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and gas to
liquids. Shell is also strong in oil exploration and offshore
production in the Gulf of Mexico and West Africa, and has a
well-developed relationship with China, where the oil industry
has strong growth potential, plus long-term assets in Canadian
But the group suffers regular sabotage and theft from its
onshore installations in Nigeria, where it is the biggest
western producer, and has made little progress with its costly
Arctic drilling programme in recent years.
Like its big rivals, Shell is being squeezed by rising
finding and development costs as prices and demand stagnate.
The world number-two investor-controlled company by
production behind Exxon-Mobil, Shell has said it will
look outside for Voser's replacement as well as inside.
Inside Shell, the current finance director, Simon Henry, is
regarded as a potential front-runner for Voser's job along with
Marvin Odum, the company's head of upstream operations in the
Henry has a mathematics and accounting background even
though, like Odum, he joined the company as an engineer. Odum
would be Shell's first American CEO.
Andrew Brown, who became head of international upstream last
year, could be a candidate too, as could director of projects
and technology Matthias Bichsel. One company source said Brown's
relatively recent appointment may make him an outside bet, while
Bichsel, born in 1954, might be considered too old for the job.