Energy bosses have been paying tribute to “class act” Ben van Beurden after news broke that he would be stepping down as chief executive of Shell (LON: SHEL).
It was announced on Thursday morning that after almost a decade in the top job, and nearly 40 years with the oil giant, the 64-year-old would be handing back the reins at the end of the year.
He will stay on in an advisory role for a few months before departing entirely at the end of June.
Wael Sawan, head of integrated gas and renewables and the London-listed supermajor, has been named as his successor.
Bernard Looney, CEO of fellow oil giant BP, described Mr van Beurden as “one of the most influential leaders in business”, while Equinor CEO Anders Opedal thanked the Dutchman for his work.
A privilege and honour
In a post on LinkedIn, Mr van Beurden said: “After a great 39-year career at Shell, I’ll step down as Chief Executive Officer at the end of 2022. Wael Sawan, currently Integrated Gas, Renewables & Energy Solutions Director, will take over from 1 January 2023.
“It has been a privilege and an honour to have served the company for nearly four decades and to lead the business 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 our goal of providing the world with the essential commodities of modern life. I am very proud of what we have achieved together.”
‘A class act!’
Dozens of comments have been left below the post, thanking Mr van Beurden for his work and wishing him all the best.
Mr Looney said: “Ben – you’re one of the most influential leaders in business – not to mention generous and kind. In short – a class act!
“You’ve worked tirelessly to set your company up for success – AND you’ve helped shape the future of the industry. I’ve learnt so much from you over the years.
“It won’t feel the same without you, and I wish you and your lovely family health and happiness in the years ahead. Thank you.”
Mr Opedal said: “Thanks Ben, I and everyone in Equinor have enjoyed working with you and all employees in Shell. Congratulations Wael, looking forward to work with you to even further strengthen the collaboration between Shell and Equinor.”
Steered Shell through ‘multiple crises’
There had been a good deal of speculation in recent weeks that Shell was putting plans in place for Mr van Beurden’s departure.
Having been at the helm of the oil giant for nine years, there was a likelihood he woudl retire soon, and reports had emerged that work was underway to select a replacement.
It is thought there were four candidates in the running for the Shell CEO role, with Mr Sawan deemed the likely frontrunner.
Analysing Mr van Beurden’ legacy, Biraj Borkhataria, associate director of European research at RBC Capital Markets said he had led the group through “multiple crises” since taking over in 2014.
That includes a “severe” oil industry downturn in 2014-15, as well as the more recent slump caused by Covid-19.
Mr Borkhataria said: “He also spearheaded the BG Group acquisition, which gave Shell a leading market share in the global LNG business, as well as a deeper foothold in Brazil deepwater.
“The deal, which many investors considered to be executed at the wrong price at the time, could be looked at more favourably with the benefit of hindsight, particularly following recent geopolitical events and the tightening of the global gas market.
“The dividend cut in 2020 is obviously something that no Shell CEO would like to be associated with, however, ultimately drove a more sustainable shareholder distributions mix between dividends and buybacks.
“Under the current plan in place, Shell is set to return close to $30bn to shareholders this year, which is likely to be a record, while it is also higher than pre-COVID19 levels.”