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Shell gas chief exits after losing race for top job

May 26, 2009

Catherine Boyle

Linda Cook, head of gas and power of Shell, the oil giant, will leave the company after missing out in the race to become chief executive and will forfeit a “loyalty” bonus of £800,000.

The 50-year-old, who has been with the company for close to three decades, will leave the company’s board next week. She was one of several internal candidates who lost out to the incoming chief executive, Peter Voser, currently chief financial officer, who will succeed Jeroen van der Veer.

Mr Voser is understood to be shaping his top management team at the moment.

A spokesman for Shell said that Ms Cook’s departure was by mutual consent. It is understood that she has lost a retention bonus of about £800,000, which was handed to internal candidates who lost out on the chief executive job on condition that they stay with Shell for three years.

Last week, angry Shell shareholders protested against last year’s bonus payments at their annual meeting. More than half the investors voted against the company’s remuneration report, which awarded £3.65 million in bonus payments to executives despite performance targets having been missed.

Shell is also facing controversy over its alleged involvement in the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmental activist who was executed by the Nigerian government in 1995. His family are suing Shell in a US court for alleged complicity in the events leading up to his death.

Ms Cook will stay on in Shell’s gas division until at least June 30 as the company seeks her successor.

The Kansas-born petroleum engineer previously led Shell’s operations in Canada and is a non-executive director of Boeing, the aeroplane maker. Shell’s capacity for liquefied natural gas (LNG) production has risen by 60 per cent in the past five years under her stewardship. The LNG market is one of the fastest-growing energy markets of recent years and Shell now has the largest LNG portfolio of any international energy company.

Ms Cook would have been the first woman chief executive of a global oil company if she had succeeded in becoming the head of Shell.

Mr van der Veer said: “I am most grateful to Linda Cook for her many important contributions to the success of our company.”

Swiss-born Mr Voser, 50, is seen as a safe pair of hands within the Anglo-Dutch oil company, which has struggled with exploration and production in recent years, even as rocketing oil prices have helped to keep revenues high.

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