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I was written off in my 40s, says outgoing Shell boss Ben van Beurden

Mail On Sunday/ ThisisMoney.co.uk

I was written off in my 40s, says outgoing Shell boss Ben van Beurden: Oil industry titan is having the last laugh

  • Ben van Beurden says his stellar career was almost derailed two decades ago 

  • He was told that he did not have what it took to get to the top

He is one of the most powerful business leaders on the planet, with a pay package of £6million in 2021.

But, in a candid admission that will strike a chord with anyone who feels their talents are overlooked at work, Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden says his stellar career was almost derailed two decades ago.

The Dutch oilman says that when he was in his 40s he was told at an assessment centre for leadership training that he did not have what it took to get to the top.

He describes the encounter as a ‘total train wreck’ that left him reeling.

He says: ‘It became clear that I had some gaping holes in my CV and my skill set, so the feedback was: “This is the end of the road for you, my friend. In fact, we don’t quite understand how you made it here in the first place.”’

Van Beurden had been at Shell for 17 years in various technical roles when he was invited to the assessment centre, which came as he took his first commercial job at the group selling liquefied natural gas in Mexico.

The 64- year-old, who became chief executive of the Anglo-Dutch energy giant in 2014 and who left the group yesterday, went on to prove that verdict spectacularly wrong.

In an interview published on Shell’s website, he also reveals that his wife Stacey, like many women, had doubts about having her husband around the house all day after he retires, regardless of his exalted status.

Her fears, he says, were eased by him spending more time at home during pandemic lockdowns.

He says: ‘I remember three or four months into it, my wife said: “I am not so afraid any more of your retirement with you being at home all the time, I think it could work out quite well.”’

The father of four indicates he will not retire permanently – planning to take up to a year off.

‘It’s a bit scary, but I quite like the prospect of having six or 12 months of enjoying life in a completely different way, rather than trying to get satisfaction out of work,’ he says.

He says that he regrets only being able to finish about two books a year while chief executive, on top of reading work documents and emails. He also wants to spend more time playing golf.

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