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Financial Times: Sutherland hands on till the end

By Emiliya (edited by) Mychasuk and Emiko (edited by) Terazono
Published: September 26 2007 03:00 | Last updated: September 26 2007 03:00

Speculation has begun on when the search for the next chairman of BP might get under way, ahead of the current end of the term for hands-on chairman Peter Sutherland in about 18 months.

The 61-year-old’s contract had been extended “into 2009”, after Tony Hayward had replaced Lord Browne as chief executive as a result of the latter’s own abrupt retirement.

When he was re-elected at the last annual meeting, BP said that Mr Sutherland had been “pivotal in the work of the board, its relations with shareholders and its interface with Lord Browne and his executive team. He has led the chairman’s committee through the process of selection of a successor to Lord Browne.

“Mr Sutherland’s performance was evaluated by other members of the chairman’s committee. The board has confirmed its full support for Mr Sutherland in his role as chairman.”

However, it is the board’s policy that non-executives “are not generally expected to hold office for more than 10 years” and Mr Sutherland has held the chair since 1997.

Internal candidates include Sir William Castell, the GE director who was chief executive of Amersham, appointed last year, as well as deputy chairman Sir Ian Prosser, although he has also been on the board since 1997. An external search for an outsider – perhaps an American in honour of BP’s significant US assets at a tough time – would follow the example of Shell in hiring Jorma Ollila from Nokia after the exit of Sir Philip Watts.

In the meantime, Mr Sutherland’s office is now so much closer to Mr Hayward’s after a rejig that the chairman shows nosign of being any less involved.

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