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Shell shock as new boss is appointed

ROYAL DUTCH SHELL sprang another surprise on the City yesterday by naming its head of refining Ben van Beurden as its new chief executive to succeed Peter Voser next January.

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Dutchman Van Beurden, 55, who has been with the Anglo-Dutch oil giant for 30 years but only appointed to the board in January as boss of its downstream operations, had not been touted as a likely contender to replace Voser, whose decision to stand down after less than five years in the top job had stunned investors.

Analysts had focused on chief financial officer Simon Henry and other divisional heads including Marvin Odum and Andy Brown as potential successors, although Shell also reviewed outside candidates.

But chairman Jorma Ollila said: “Ben has deep knowledge of the industry and proven executive experience across a range of Shell businesses. He will continue to develop the strategic agenda we have set out, to generate competitive returns for our shareholders.”

Peter Hutton, oil analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said: “This will be something of a surprise to analysts who widely expected Simon Henry to get the top position. Voser and Henry had worked very well as a partnership, so the jury may be out whether this can be continued as effectively with a CFO passed over for the top job.”

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