Shell surprises with choice for chief executive

 
Elizabeth Fournier

SHELL gave the markets a surprise yesterday when it named downstream boss Ben van Beurden as its new chief executive, replacing current CEO Peter Voser when he retires next year.

Van Beurden, a Shell lifer who joined the firm in 1983, will take the reins at the energy giant on 1 January 2014, with Voser staying on until the end of March.

A low profile member of the senior Shell team, Van Beurden had not been considered a frontrunner for the top job until yesterday, with finance chief Simon Henry widely tipped among analysts as Voser’s natural successor.

Voser announced his retirement in early May after four years as chief executive of the Anglo-Dutch firm.

During his tenure Shell’s focus has shifted towards new technology for liquefied natural gas and deepwater drilling – a pathway that’s likely to be pursued under Van Beurden, who has worked in the LNGā€ˆdepartment for the past decade. He first joined the firm in the Netherlands, after completing a masters in chemical engineering at the University of Delft.

During his 30 years at Shell Van Beurden has worked in Africa, Malaysia and the US, and most recently in the UK as downstream director. His appointment puts the top job back in Dutch hands, four years after former CEO and fellow Delft graduate Jeroen van der Veer was succeeded by Voser.

Shares in Shell rose 1.53 per cent to close at 2,161.5p yesterday.