Oil and gas giant Shell (LON: SHEL) has confirmed that its chief executive will step down at the end of 2022.
There had been speculation that Ben van Beurden was on his way out of the supermajor after almost a decade at the helm.
He will be replaced by Wael Sawan, Shell’s head of integrated gas and renewables, effective from January 1.
At that point, Mr Sawan will also join the company’s board of directors.
Mr van Beurden will continue working as an advisor to the board until June 30 next year, after which he will leave the group entirely.
Shell chairman Sir Andrew Mackenzie said: “Ben can look back with great pride on an extraordinary 39-year Shell career, culminating in nine years as an exceptional CEO. During the last decade, he has been in the vanguard for the transition of Shell to a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 and has become a leading industry voice on some of the most important issues affecting society.
“He leaves a financially strong and profitable company with a robust balance sheet, very strong cash generation capability and a compelling set of options for growth. These were all enabled by bold moves he has led, including the 2016 acquisition of BG and the transformational $30 billion divestment of non-core assets that followed.
“He took firm, decisive action to marshal the company through the global pandemic, seizing the opportunity for a major reset to ensure we emerged fitter, stronger and equipped to succeed in the energy transition.
“Powering Progress, Shell’s detailed strategy to accelerate our profitable transition to a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, was unveiled in February 2021 and was quickly followed by moves to simplify both our organisational and share structures. Ben’s legacy will frame Shell’s success for decades to come.”
Ben van Beurden – an overview
Reports first began to emerge last month that Mr van Beurden, who became CEO in 2014, was heading for the exit door.
Prior to taking the top job he was downstream director for several months and executive vice president for chemicals from 2006 to 2012.
He also held a number of operational and commercial roles in both upstream and downstream, including vice president manufacturing excellence.
The father-of-four joined Shell in 1983, after graduating with a Master’s degree in chemical engineering from Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands.
His time in charge of the Anglo-Dutch supermajor has coincided with a period of great uncertainty and widespread change in the oil and gas industry.
Mr van Beurden guided the company through two industry downturns, and during the most recent, sparked by Covid-19, he made the monumental call to cut the company’s dividend for the first time since the Second World War.
It was a decision that stunned the industry, and underlined the seriousness of the pandemic and lockdowns to business.
More recently he has spearheaded Shell’s drive to become an integrated energy company, supported by moves into offshore wind, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.
Mr van Beurden said: “It has been a privilege and an honour to have served Shell for nearly four decades and to lead the company for the past nine years.
“In my journey from LNG design engineer to CEO, I have been fortunate to work alongside so many talented people from diverse backgrounds – all committed to the company’s goal of providing the world with the essential commodities of modern life.
“I am very proud of what we have achieved together. I have great confidence in Wael as my successor. He is a smart, principled and dynamic leader, who I know will continue to serve Shell with conviction and dedication. I wish him and his family all the best for the journey ahead.”
Before becoming Shell’s director of integrated gas and renewables, Mr Sawan was upstream director.
Based in The Hague, he has been a member of Shell’s executive committee (EC) for three years.
Prior to joining EC, he was the executive vice president of deepwater and a member of the upstream leadership team.
During his 25-year career with Shell, Mr Sawan has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, and has also held in downstream retail, and in various commercial and new business development projects.
The father-of-three was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and is a dual Lebanese-Canadian national.
Mr Sawan grew up in Dubai and holds a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from McGill University in Montreal and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
He said: “It’s been a privilege to work alongside Ben and I’m honoured to take over the leadership of this great company from him. I’m looking forward to channelling the pioneering spirit and passion of our incredible people to rise to the immense challenges, and grasp the opportunities presented by the energy transition. We will be disciplined and value focused, as we work with our customers and partners to deliver the reliable, affordable and cleaner energy the world needs.”
Sir Andrew added: “Wael Sawan is an exceptional leader, with all the qualities needed to drive Shell safely and profitably through its next phase of transition and growth.
“His track record of commercial, operational and transformational success reflects not only his broad, deep experience and understanding of Shell and the energy sector, but also his strategic clarity.
“He combines these qualities with a passion for people, which enables him to get the best from those around him.
“The outcome of the Board’s managed succession process resulted both in the appointment of an outstanding CEO and proved the strength and depth of Shell’s leadership talent. I look forward to working with Wael as we accelerate the delivery of our strategy.”