Shell names van Beurden as surprise choice for CEO

Tue Jul 9, 2013 4:55am EDT
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By Sarah Young and Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: Quote) named head of refining Ben van Beurden to replace chief executive Peter Voser, a surprise appointment to steer Europe's biggest oil firm through an industry-wide battle to replace reserves and control costs.

Analysts and investors had not considered van Beurden, who has worked for the company for 30 years, as a possible contender to replace Voser next year.

Their early focus was on Finance Director Simon Henry and other divisional heads Marvin Odum, Matthias Bichseland and Andrew Brown.

Voser, who built the oil company into a leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and was finance director at the company before taking the helm in 2009, shocked the industry by announcing his early departure over two months ago.

Shares in Shell gained 1 percent in early trading on Tuesday following the appointment of the relatively unknown van Beurden, who only joined the company's executive committee in January.

"It's initially something of a surprise. The question is, who is this guy," Royal Bank of Canada analyst Peter Hutton said.

Shell said van Beurden, a 55-year-old Dutchman, had a deep knowledge of the industry, having worked across a range of businesses and countries since he joined the firm in 1983.

"Ben will continue to drive and further develop the strategic agenda that we have set out, to generate competitive returns for our shareholders," said Chairman Jorma Ollila.   Continued...

A Shell logo is seen at a petrol station in Ankara March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Umit Bektas