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A message from former Shell Executive Paddy Briggs to Hans Bouman

Hans

MorningStar.com: FOCUS: Brinded, Cook, Voser Lead Shell Insiders For Top Job

You and I were both quoted and in my case I don’t really have a problem with what Benoit said. The substantive point I was trying to make (which I think came through) was to express the hope (forlorn I suspect) that Shell is imaginative in its appointment of a successor to Jeroen. I think that perhaps they did need this sincere, but dull, Dutchman to restore some modicum of integrity after the Watts disaster. In that respect, however, I think that Jeroen has been a disappointment. My experience of him is of a decent man, albeit a creatively limited one. Quite why he surrounded himself with the apparatchiks he chose I’m not sure. They are not sycophants – but they aren’t very memorable either. The least popular of them all is Rob Routs about whom I have not heard one complimentary word over the past few years. No wonder there is no feel for marketing at the top in his malevolent hands – not that there was ever much!

There is a crunch point ahead for Shell and the decision on Jeroen’s successor is key to this. I do not believe that Shell can continue with the pretence that there is added value from being a vertically integrated energy company (or that vertical integration matters one jot in the modern world of oil and gas). The downstream is very distant from, and different to, the core upstream business and, for that matter, culpably badly managed by Shell at present. But the brand is strong and the marketing assets attractive. Of course it should be hived off – and there are plenty of venture capitalists around who would love the chance to make the Shell brand work.

The next CEO of Shell should have the skill and the experience to split the company into its component parts and divest itself of the downstream completely. That sounds like an outsider to me – not someone who grew up with the misconception that vertical integration adds value – that is a concept which is 30 years (or more) out of date.

Paddy Briggs

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