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Houston Chronicle: Hofmeister handing over reins of Shell Oil Co.

March 17, 2008, 9:32AM
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., the U.S. arm of The Netherlands-based Royal Dutch Shell, is stepping down in accordance with a company policy of retirement of top executives at age 60, the company said today..

Hofmeister, who turned 60 in January, will retire as of June 1. The company has named Marvin Odum, 49, executive vice president of exploration and production in the U.S. for Shell, as Hofmeister’s successor in the top U.S. role in addition to his current operational position.

Hofmeister said he will continue to promote solutions to the nation’s energy needs and his civic work with the Greater Houston Partnership and the National Urban League, “but with more time and capacity to make a difference.”

Odum said in a statement that hard work lies ahead to provide affordable energy by tapping new resources while seeking to mitigate climate change. “I look forward to leading the company during this important time,” he said.

Hofmeister differs from his top executive peers among the world’s largest oil companies in that his background is in human resources. He never ran an energy division until he was elevated to Shell’s top position in the U.S. three years ago.

He also didn’t spend his entire career at Shell. Before joining Shell at its headquarters in The Hague as group human resources director in 1997, Hofmeister spent 24 years with General Electric, Northern Telecom and Allied Signal — now Honeywell International.

He started with GE in its international sales and marketing department in 1973, He worked with scientists and engineers in energy, aerospace, telecom, and GE’s major businesses, including locomotives, factory automation and electric motors.

In January 2005, the company promoted Hofmeister to helm Houston-based Shell Oil Co. At that time, the company was reeling from the fallout of a reserves accounting scandal that emerged in 2004 and forced repeated restatements of reserves. One of Hofmeister’s top missions upon his appointment was to restore investor confidence and buff up the company’s sullied image in the U.S.

A few months later, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita savaged the Gulf Coast, inflicting severe damage on oil and gas installations as well as much of the nation’s refineries and other processing facilities concentrated along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Oil and natural gas prices spiked in the aftermath, though oil prices didn’t rise to the three-digit levels they have reached since January this year.

Consumer anger over high post-hurricane energy prices and the need to explain how the storms exacerbated already growing problems of tight supply and shrinking access to resources amid growing worldwide demand prompted Shell and Hofmeister to conduct a 50-city tour in 2006 and 2007.

In those speeches, town hall meetings, and meetings with governors and mayors across the country, Hofmeister and numerous other top Shell executives listened to consumer concerns and discussed the need for diverse energy sources and more access to supply, particularly in off-limits areas in the U.S.

Other energy companies since launched similar efforts on a smaller scale.

In addition, Hofmeister served as chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership last year.

Odum joined Shell in 1982 as an engineer and has had various management roles in technical and commercial operations, including business development and technology for exploration and production, gas and power in the Americas, and CEO of InterGen, Shell’s global power generation company.

He assumed his current role in Houston in May 2005. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas and an MBA from the University of Houston.

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