Shell unveils Ben van Beurden as new chief exec

Ben van Beurden took an unorthodox route to the top. Picture: Reuters
Ben van Beurden took an unorthodox route to the top. Picture: Reuters
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AN OIL industry veteran who has risen through the ranks during three decades at Royal Dutch Shell has been named the company’s next chief executive.

Downstream director Ben van Beurden will succeed Peter Voser, 55, who is leaving the company next year.

Dutch national van Beurden, 55, beat off competition from internal and external candidates to land the post, which he will take up on 1 January.

The appointment surprised analysts who expected chief financial officer Simon Henry to take the top job, leading to speculation he might consider his position having been passed over. Peter Hutton, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, said van Beurden, who joined the Anglo-Dutch group in 1983 and is a member of Shell’s executive committee, was considered to be “balanced and clear in thinking”. And although his role at the company’s chemical division is “not normally seen as a route to the top”, van Beurden’s appointment was welcomed as “positive”, Hutton added.

Chairman Jorma Ollila said: “Ben has deep knowledge of the industry and proven executive experience across a range of Shell businesses.”

Voser, who has been chief executive of Shell since July 2009, told staff in May that he was leaving to spend more time with his family.

The announcement came as Shell posted profits of just under $8 billion (£5.1bn) for the first quarter of the year, an increase of 4 per cent on a year ago and beating City forecasts. The firm has weathered a recent drop in oil prices with improved profits from refining and trading.