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Jeroen van der Veer, Democratic Dutchman with a charisma bypass

The Guardian: Democratic Dutchman with a charisma bypass

“One of his endearing traits is to ask his exploration director Malcolm Brinded, a more natural performer it must be said, to tell him if he gets things wrong: “Malcolm, check me if I drop the ball,” van der Veer said at one stage.”: “An outsider would be better suited for that post, especially as van der Veer’s name comes up, along with other Shell directors, in class actions in the US. It must be hard to focus on the way forward with the cloud of the past hanging over you…”

Terry Macalister

Posted 24 September 2004

In the halcyon days pre-January, Shell used to summon analysts and the media to its landmark tower overlooking the Thames.

Those occasions were presided over by former chairmen Sir Philip Watts or Sir Mark Moody-Stuart with a certain hauteur.

Now, the trouble-prone group prefers to keep oil-watchers out of its headquarters, and yesterday used the Plaisterers Hall near the Barbican for what it had billed as a major strategy briefing.

Another break with the past is that current chairman Jeroen van der Veer is a democratic Dutchman who could not do smugness if he tried.

One of his endearing traits is to ask his exploration director Malcolm Brinded, a more natural performer it must be said, to tell him if he gets things wrong: “Malcolm, check me if I drop the ball,” van der Veer said at one stage.

Brinded would be better telling his boss to kick the ball forward, score exciting goals and show some personal panache.

But van der Veer is expert at dullness, and can make the world of black gold sound as glamorous as green peas.

Yesterday, he raised his personal game slightly but not enough to convince the outside world that he is the dynamo that can bring a bounceback for Shell.

And there was certainly no glittery new idea that would have measured up to the shimmering chandeliers of the hall, just a promise that a grim slog would eventually put the oil group back on track.

Van der Veer has a tough job to do salvaging Shell’s reputation and he is surely not the perfect man to lead once the new corporate structure is put in place next summer.

An outsider would be better suited for that post, especially as van der Veer’s name comes up, along with other Shell directors, in class actions in the US.

It must be hard to focus on the way forward with the cloud of the past hanging over you but yesterday the chairman dismissed any hint of anxiety: “No, I’m not concerned about that at all. I can look in the mirror.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,,1310611,00.html

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