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Sunoco Picks Shell Veteran Elsenhans for CEO Job

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Sunoco Picks Shell Veteran Elsenhans for CEO Job

July 17, 2008; Page B1

Sunoco Inc. named Royal Dutch Shell PLC veteran Lynn Laverty Elsenhans chief executive and president, a changing of the guard that could usher in a less-conservative culture at the Philadelphia-based oil refiner.

The 52-year-old Ms. Elsenhans, who joins the small club of women leading major U.S. corporations, will succeed John Drosdick as Sunoco‘s CEO when he retires Aug. 8, a day before he turns 65.

Ms. Elsenhans, who oversaw refining and chemical operations at Shell, played a major role at the Dutch company as it trimmed its refining portfolio to focus on its largest, most potentially lucrative refineries.

She is taking the top job at Sunoco at a tough time for refiners, who have been squeezed by high oil prices and weakening gasoline demand. Sunoco posted a first-quarter loss of $59 million, and its shares have lost more than half their value in the past year.

Ms. Elsenhans was unavailable for comment.

Sunoco is the second-largest independent refiner in the U.S., operating five refineries with a total capacity of 900,000 barrels a day. It also has a large network of gasoline stations. Last year it had revenue of $44.7 billion.

Despite its size, Sunoco is viewed as a quiet, conservative player in the sector. While its rivals have invested billions of dollars in upgrades to process cheaper, heavier grades of crude and expand margins, Sunoco has mostly stuck to refining the more-expensive light, sweet grades.

Ms. Elsenhans “could potentially alter the conservative culture at Sunoco,” said refining analyst Chi Chow of Tristone Capital in Denver. Other industry watchers agreed.

Sunoco’s choice of Ms. Elsenhans as CEO is a milestone for the oil industry, where women executives are few. She is one of two women to have led refining units of big energy companies. The other, Patricia Woertz, now is CEO of agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. Ms. Woertz and Angela F. Braly, CEO ofWellPoint Inc., are the only women leading Fortune 500 companies larger than Sunoco.

–Ana Campoy contributed to this article.

Write to Jessica Resnick-Ault at [email protected] and Joann S. Lublin at [email protected]

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