Shell is looking for a new chief executive to replace Ben van Beurden as the 64-year-old is set to step down after nearly a decade at the helm of Europe’s biggest oil and gas company.
Shell’s board began talks with potential internal candidates last summer and identified at least four potential successors, according to people familiar with the details.
Candidates include frontrunner Wael Sawan, who heads Shell’s integrated gas and renewables division, Huibert Vigeveno, head of Shell’s downstream business, Zoe Yujnovich, head of upstream, and Sinead Gorman, chief financial officer. people said.
Reuters reported on Friday that all four leaders had been shortlisted as possible successors ahead of van Beurden’s likely departure sometime next year.
Shell declined to comment. In July, van Beurden told the Financial Times that succession was “not on the agenda”, but spoke at length about his legacy as chief executive.
“For me, and for many people at Shell elsewhere. . . it’s really important that you do what it takes so that in retirement, when that eventually comes, you can look your grandchildren in the eye and say “this is what I did to make the world better for you,'” he said. said.
In nine years in this position, van Beurden oversaw the acquisition of BG Group for $52 billion, moved the company’s headquarters to London and revised its strategy by pledging to reduce oil production and emissions.
But the Dutch executive, who has spent his entire 39-year career at Shell, has also faced criticism, particularly in his native Netherlands where a court ruled last year that Shell must cut emissions more rapidly.
Big oil chief executives rarely serve more than 10 years and early preparations for van Beurden’s departure began shortly after Sir Andrew Mackenzie was installed as president in May last year, said the people. Those plans might have moved faster if former chief financial officer Jessica Uhl hadn’t announced her intention to leave the company in March, they added.
Shell’s senior management has changed significantly over the past 12 months. Former head of integrated gas and renewables Maarten Wetselaar, once seen as a likely replacement for van Beurden, left the company in October after 25 years. Analysts speculated at the time that Wetselaar, who became chief executive of Spanish oil and gas group Cepsa, left once it was clear he would not get the top job at Shell .
Wetselaar was replaced by Sawan, then head of upstream. The appointment was intended to give Sawan experience in managing what is now Shell’s largest division, the people said.
Sawan, a Canadian citizen who trained as an engineer, has long been considered a rising star at Shell. He joined the company in 1997 and has been a member of its executive committee since July 2019. He previously led the company’s oil and gas projects in Qatar and its deepwater operations from Houston.
In the same shakeup, Yujnovich, who began her career with mining company Rio Tinto, joined the eight-member executive committee as upstream director. She was previously president of Shell’s Australian operations.
Gorman became chief financial officer in April after Uhl’s departure.