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Under which Shell a new chairman?

Financial Times: Under which Shell a new chairman?

By Clay Harris

Published: May 20 2005

Now that Royal Dutch Shell has its date for unification, it’s time to turn attention to the next task, finding a new chairman. Aad Jacobs intends to stand down at the 2006 annual meeting, when the board wants to have an external candidate ready to take his place. The search is being led by Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, deputy chairman and senior independent director.

But Mudlark understands that some candidates have raised a surprising objection – none of them wants to live in The Hague, a requirement seen as non-negotiable. In the case of US candidates, there’s a cheeky temptation to blame the proximity of the International Court of Justice. But even Lloyds TSB chairman Maarten van den Bergh, were he not disqualified by already being on the board, is said not to be keen about living in The Hague.

Mudlark also hears that Shell does not necessarily want a UK candidate. Someone from Ireland, English-speaking but “neutral”, might be preferable. But the list of appropriate candidates appears to begin and end with Sir Gerry Robinson, whose days as chairman of Allied Domecq may be numbered because of the respective takeover ambitions of Pernod Ricard and Constellation Brands.

Samuel Johar, chairman of headhunter Buchanan Harvey, has a provocative name to throw into the ring. What about Lord Patten, whose European commitment and political skills are beyond doubt? As one of the fathers of the proposed European Union constitution, Kerr is well acquainted with Patten.

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