MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's state oil company, whose powerful chief executive could be instrumental in buying BP's stake in rival TNK-BP, has hired a fourth former BP executive as it seeks to boost its top management team.
Sources close to Rosneft, where former deputy prime minister Igor Sechin, took the helm two weeks ago, said Didier Casimiro, a former BP power trade executive who worked for several years at TNK-BP itself, joined the Russian oil company to take charge of downstream operations.
Rosneft is also due to appoint a Morgan Stanley banker to its top finance post.
Casimiro joins two other former BP executives with experience at TNK-BP, and a third who played a key role in a failed BP tie-up with Rosneft last year - all potential assets if a state buyout of BP's stake in the No. 3 oil producer comes to pass.
Any sale will take time. The process gives the quartet of billionaire shareholders that owns half of TNK-BP up to six weeks to consider whether to buy BP out of its stake - estimated to be worth about $30 billion - in the highly profitable but conflict-ridden Russian venture.
Sources close to Rosneft also said Dmitry Avdeyev, co-head of investment banking at Morgan Stanley in Moscow, was set to join a succession of alumni from Morgan Stanley to manage the finances of Russia's largest oil producer.
Avdeyev, who served as chief financial officer of oil services company Integra in between stints in investment banking, worked his final day at Morgan Stanley on Monday, one of the sources said.
A Rosneft spokeswoman declined to comment on Avdeyev, who would be the first major hire since Sechin took over as chief executive two weeks ago.
Sechin has masterminded the transformation of Rosneft from a second tier player to the top Russian oil producer, bulked up with the assets of bankrupted oil company Yukos, and wants to transform Rosneft into a world industry leader.
Industry sources and analysts expected him to be acquisitive on the domestic front. In addition to the bid for TNK-BP by parent company Rosneftegaz, Sechin could make a play for smaller Russian peers.
The finance post is seen as an important one for Rosneft under Sechin, who entered civil service in St Petersburg after serving as a military translator in Africa during the Cold War and had no direct experience in day-to-day corporate management.
He faces particular challenges in controlling burgeoning capital spending and bringing to life three Arctic drilling and asset swap deals concluded with ExxonMobil, Statoil and ENI in the final days of Putin's government.
A source close to Rosneft said the appointment of the four foreign executives, all of which occurred under previous president Eduard Khudainatov, who has moved to the position of first vice president, had the tacit approval of Sechin as deputy prime minister.
"Every appointment needs the seal of approval," the source said.
Larry Bates was a BP executive in Moscow and played a key role in the British oil major's failed attempt to tie up with Rosneft last year in a landmark share swap and Arctic drilling deal that was blocked in the courts by the co-owners of TNK-BP.
The second, Andrew Lewis, served as exploration manager at BP's Moscow office after a stint at TNK-BP, and a third, Phil Lynch, worked for Shell-led West Siberian oil venture Salym Petroleum before joining Rosneft.
Casimiro, the former commercial director at TNK-BP who also had responsibility for the company's operations in Ukraine, "has been working (at Rosneft) for almost a month", said one source close to the Russian oil company.
His departure from TNK-BP preceded the news that BP would pursue the sale of its stake in the company, which has provoked new conflict between the British major and its local partners in the 50-50 joint venture.
A source close to TNK-BP added that the company's Ukrainian operations had been largely wound down as a result of the shutdown of its Lisichansk refinery.
The finance chief's post had been vacant since the departure of former first vice president, Pavel Fedorov, who was appointed deputy energy minister earlier this year.
Fyodorov, also a former Morgan Stanley banker, took over from a third Morgan Stanley banker and U.S. native, Peter O'Brien, who assumed the role of chief financial officer in 2006, when the company held its initial public offering.
Reporting by Melissa Akin,; Editing by Douglas Busvine, Elizabeth Piper and Giles Elgood