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Shell’s female head of gas and power earned £3.9m in 2008 – by resigning

Oil company’s ‘golden goodbye’ made Linda Cook the second highest-paid businesswoman in Britain

Terry Macalister, Monday 14 September 2009 18.39 BST:

Linda Cook earned £3.9m last year, making her the second best-paid businesswoman in Britain. But the former head of gas and power at Shell only achieved the top remuneration spot after a “golden goodbye” when she left the company after 29 years’ service.

American-born Cook abruptly resigned after losing out to rival Peter Voser in the race for the chief executive role following the retirement of long-standing boss, Jeroen van der Veer.

There was speculation that the 50-year-old was pushed and the company was unable to say what job she was moving on to. She is understood to have built up a pension pot worth more than £7m by the end of last year.

Her departure coincided with the exit of BP‘s top woman, Vivienne Cox. Both had responsibility for developing a green power agenda that was being given a dwindling profile at both groups.

Cook’s departure on June 1 meant she missed out on a further £800,000 loyalty bonus, one of a number of wider pay issues at Shell that caused a rumpus at the company’s annual general meeting this year.

Franklin Mutual, part of the Templeton group of funds in the US, described as “pathetic” the defence offered by Sir Peter Job, chairman of Shell’s remuneration committee, over last year’s top pay awards, in a revolt that led to his resignation at the weekend.

Cook, who has been named as one of the world’s most powerful businesswomen, headed the growing gas and power division for the last five years.

She had overseen the company’s largest single project –the Pearl gas-to-liquids plant in Qatar –and its investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG). Shell’s gas and power division, which includes one of the biggest LNG portfolios in the world, produced earnings for 2008 of $5.3bn (£3.2bn), up over 90% from 12 months earlier.

Shell, whose gas operations accounted for nearly 45% of upstream production last year, has said it expected gas to eventually overtake traditional oil production.

But the company is not planning any big investments in Cook’s other area of responsibility, solar and wind energy, with the focus shifting onto biofuels, led by Shell’s oil products and refining division.

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