LONDON David Peattie, the head of British oil company BP's (BP.L) often fraught Russian business, is leaving to run privately-owned North Sea oil producer Fairfield Energy, the companies said on Thursday.
The move comes as BP plans to sell its stake in its main Russian investment, TNK-BP - one of the country's biggest oil producers.
BP also said it appointed Michael Townshend, who is now in charge of company's business in Iraq, as BP's head in Russia starting from March 1.
Townshend has worked in a number of countries for BP, including Azerbaijan, where the British major has recently had a series of disputes with the local government over falling oil production.
He has been a non-executive director of BP's Russian joint venture, TNK-BP TNBP.MM, since 2011. TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest crude producer, is in the midst of a $55 billion takeover by state-owned Rosneft (ROSN.MM).
As a result of the deal BP would get two seats on Rosneft's board. Earlier on Thursday, Rosneft's head Igor Sechin said he would welcome BP's CEO Robert Dudley to the board.
Peattie was one of a generation of managers at BP, including former chief executive Tony Hayward, that were seen as possible future leaders of the company. He will continue to sit on the board of TNK-BP until BP completes the sale of its half share to Rosneft.
Fairfield Energy is owned by a consortium of private and institutional investors from Europe and North America led by private equity firm Warburg Pincus and investment house Riverstone, where former BP CEO John Browne is a partner.
Peattie, a 32 years veteran of BP, succeeds Chris Wright at Fairfield.
BP decided to sell its TNK-BP stake last year after years of spats with its oligarch co-owners.
(Reporting by Tom Bergin; additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Editing by Dan Lalor and Elaine Hardcastle)