Shock move by Shell’s Voser sparks chief exec hunt

Peter Voser has announced his intention to retire as Shell CEO in two years' time. Picture: Reuters
Peter Voser has announced his intention to retire as Shell CEO in two years' time. Picture: Reuters
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Shell chief executive Peter Voser today said that was seeking a “change of lifestyle” and will retire next year.

THE hunt to fill one of the UK’s biggest corporate jobs was under way yesterday after a surprise retirement announcement from Royal Dutch Shell’s chief executive Peter Voser.

The 54-year-old said his decision to step down next year after a decade at the group was driven by a desire for a change of lifestyle.

Over the past nine years the Swiss executive has helped drive the group’s reorganisation and recovery from sector laggard to a leading position in the burgeoning liquefied natural gas industry.

Voser stressed his decision to go in the first half of 2014 was a personal one. Shell employees, investors and analysts all said they were surprised to see him go.

“I am looking forward to having more time available for my family and private life in the years to come,” Voser said in a statement. Shell said it would look both internally and externally for his replacement. Finance director Simon Henry was tipped as an early front-runner for the role but in conference calls yesterday to discuss the group’s latest figures he refused to be drawn on the issue.

From outside the company, the likes of British Gas owner Centrica’s chief executive Sam Laidlaw is also expected to be seen as a possible candidate for the role. A spokeswoman said Shell had looked outside for chief executives in the past.

However, as with most big oil companies, they traditionally emerged through the ranks.

Peter Hutton, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets, said Voser would leave Shell in a much stronger position than when he arrived.

“He has brought real focus to the business. The testament to a strong legacy will be a smooth transition to his successor.”

Voser’s announcement came as it unveiled first-quarter profits that topped market expectations.

Adjusted net profit on a current cost of supply basis rose to $7.5 billion (£4.82bn) from $7.3bn a year ago, compared with expectations of around $6.5bn. Shares closed up 17.5p at 2,276.5p.