In a somewhat unexpected move, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), one of the world’s largest oil companies, named a new CEO on Tuesday.
Shell said that Ben van Beurden, head of the company’s refining and marketing operations with particular responsibility for Turkey and Europe, a position which he has occupied since the beginning of the year, will replace outgoing CEO Peter Voser at the beginning of 2014 when he retires. Van Beurden, a chemical engineer by education, has been with the company for some 30 years prior to his current position, and served as the Vice President of chemicals from 2006 until the end of 2012.
While the retirement of Voser was largely expected, the appointment of van Beurden was somewhat of a surprise for those who follow the company. It had been assumed that the job would go either to its CFO, Simon Henry, or one of its exploration executives, as Shell’s exploration and production units are the company’s single biggest earnings producers.
Shell’s stock has been underperforming its peers in the oil and gas industry, however, down nearly 4 percent in 2013 while other companies have had a solid year, and there is some speculation that the move to choose a new CEO from a non-traditional division of the company’s operations was the result of shareholder pressure.
But there is not much to suggest that a new CEO will make for a new direction for Shell. Company chairman Jorma Ollila said in a statement that the van Beurden “will continue to drive and further develop the strategic agenda that we have set out, to generate competitive returns for our shareholders,”.
Shares for the company were up nearly 1 percent in midday trading, at $67.17 a piece.