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Shell insider to join top board

Reuters.co.uk: Shell insider to join top board

Tue 18 May, 2004 17:44

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Royal Dutch/Shell Group says it will make Linda Cook, head of Shell Canada, a new managing director from August 1 to bolster a board depleted by recent sackings.

Cook, a veteran of more than 20 years with the firm, will take on executive responsibility for gas and power from the incumbent Malcolm Brinded, taking the number of top executives on the Committee of Managing Directors (CMD), the top executive grouping in Shell’s twin-holding hierarchy, to four from three.

Her appointment will leave Brinded free to run the core oil and gas division, a role he took on after Walter van de Vijver was fired in March for his part in a scandal about overstated reserves.

Shell said it would seek approval for Cook’s appointment at the annual general shareholders’ meeting on June 28.

At present the members are Jeroen van der Veer — who as chairman of the CMD is the company’s top executive, Brinded, and Rob Routs, head of refining and marketing and chemicals. Routs told Reuters last week that the company was working on getting the CMD up to strength.

Van de Vijver and two other members of the CMD, ex-chairman Phil Watts and Chief Financial Officer Judy Boynton, were fired this year after the revelation in January that Shell overstated its proved oil and gas reserves by more than 20 percent.

Cook joined the firm in 1980. Some investors had hoped it might introduce some new blood from outside. Van der Veer recently promised to look outside the company for talent to fill Boynton’s post as CFO.

American-born Cook, 45, is a veteran of the gas and power sector she is returning to, but signed on as head of Shell Canada Ltd last July, making headlines as the first woman to head a major oil company in the country.

She was hand-picked by Watts, now disgraced as the man who headed the company into its reserves crisis, to run 78 percent-owned Shell Canada.

Cook’s major task was to oversee the start-up of the Canadian unit’s biggest ever project, the C$5.7 billion Athabasca oil sands works in northern Alberta, a development hit by major cost overruns.

At Shell Canada’s annual meeting in Calgary last month, Cook was candid about the impact of the reserves scandal that has cut Shell’s reserve life to 11 years from more than 13 and dented investor confidence in one of the world’s top three oil firms.

“It will take years now to restore our reputation to the place that we think it should be and to the place where we would all want it to be,” she told reporters.

Shell Canada said Clive Mather, now chairman of Shell UK Ltd., will replace Cook as its CEO at the country’s third-largest oil producer, refiner and marketer in July.

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