Former Glencore head to chair Gulf Keystone

Suzie Neuwirth
FORMER French legionnaire and ex-Glencore head Simon Murray has been appointed as chairman of Gulf Keystone, the Kurdistan-focused oil explorer announced yesterday.

The company had said in May that it would split its chairman and chief executive roles as part of its attempt to move from London’s junior market to the main market.

Murray, a colourful character and raconteur who has told of the time he was chased by a leopard, was chairman of commodities trading house Glencore when it listed, stepping down after its merger with miner Xstrata. He has also held senior positions at FTSE 250-listed Essar Energy and China National Offshore Oil Corp.

“Simon’s wealth of international business experience, particularly his experience in listing and chairing a FTSE 100 company, will be invaluable in leading our migration from Aim to the main market as we transition into the next phase of the company’s development,” said Todd Kozel, chief executive of Gulf Keystone.

However, Murray’s appointment has courted controversy due to his involvement with Chinese group Sino Forest Corporation, which was accused of fraud and filed for bankruptcy last year. “Even though there is controversy surrounding the appointment, it is a major coup for the Aim-listed company with aspirations for a full listing, and the shares welcomed the appointment as they were trading a few per cent higher,” Ronnie Chopra, head of strategy at Tradenext, told City A.M.

The appointment also comes amid shareholder demands for a shake-up of the board. Fund manager and stakeholder M&G has proposed the election of four new directors at the firm’s annual meeting later this month.

Shares in Gulf Keystone, which is looking to move to a standard listing by the end of this year and a premium listing by the middle of next year, closed four per cent higher at 151p.