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Petroleum News: John Browne joins U.S. equity firm (*will he pursue his Royal Dutch Shell ambitions?)

Vol. 12, No. 35  Week of September 02, 2007
Jane Wardell
Associated Press Business Writer

Former BP Chief Executive John Browne has made a return to the oil industry, taking up a senior position at one of the world’s largest private equity funds just three months after his scandal-tainted departure from BP.

In a surprise announcement Aug. 24, New-York based Riverstone Holdings LLC, a private equity firm specializing in the energy and power sectors, said it had appointed Browne as head of its European operations.

Riverstone said it plans to open a London office where Browne will be based as managing director and managing partner beginning Sept. 1.

Browne quit BP in May, hours after a judge found that he had lied to the court when he tried to block a British newspaper from printing allegations of wrongdoing made by a former boyfriend.

That admission was the final straw for Browne, who had already brought forward his anticipated resignation date following shareholder outrage about a string of problems at BP PLC, including the deaths of 15 workers at its Texas City plant and a large oil spill at its Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, operations.

The departure of the 59-year-old, who was also a close associate of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, seemed at the time like the sad end to a previously illustrious career. It also prompted much discussion about allegations of institutional homophobia in the energy industry.

His appointment to Riverstone is a major vote of confidence in a man his new bosses describe as “a legend in the energy industry.”

During Browne’s 10-year tenure as CEO, BP saw a fivefold increase in its market capitalization to $202.7 billion as it expanded into the United States, involving a number of takeovers, including the 1998 merger with Amoco and the subsequent acquisitions of Arco and Castrol.

Browne was also the first major oil company CEO to acknowledge global warming and masterminded BP’s logo change from a shield to a flowerlike sunburst design with the slogan “Beyond Petroleum.”

While those efforts were somewhat undermined by the company’s recent U.S. troubles, David Leuschen and Pierre Lapeyre Jr., co-founders of Riverstone Holdings, acknowledged Browne’s contribution to the sector when announcing his appointment Aug. 24.

“We’ve known, worked with and respected John Browne for nearly 25 years,” Leuschen and Lapeyre said. “He is without question one of the most visionary, experienced and talented executives in the energy industry with an unparalleled global understanding.”

Riverstone founded in 2000

Brown will have the benefit of avoiding public shareholder scrutiny at Riverstone, which conducts buyout and growth capital investments in the midstream, upstream, power, oilfield services and renewable sectors of the energy industry.

The firm, founded in 2000, has so far committed more than $6 billion to more than 41 investments across each of these five sectors, representing companies with nearly $50 billion of assets.

Announcing that Browne had resigned as chairman of its advisory board to take up his new position, private equity firm Apax Partners was also complimentary.

“As a firm we have benefited enormously from the time that we have worked with Lord Browne,” Chief Executive Martin Halusha said. “I understand his desire to return to a full-time executive role in a sector that we do not cover and in which he is an acknowledged global leader.”

*Headline comment/question added by John Donovan and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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