Shell’s long-serving chief executive, Ben van Beurden, is preparing to step down next year after almost a decade in the role, according to Reuters.
The London-headquartered energy company has shortlisted four internal candidates to take his place after months of succession planning efforts that were accelerated once Sir Andrew Mackenzie became Shell’s chair in May 2021.
Van Beurden, who took over in 2014, would leave Shell in the middle of the most severe energy crisis of his tenure, which has subsequently pushed the oil and gas giant’s profits to record highs.
The energy boss, who was paid €7.4m (£6.1m) in 2021, warned earlier this week that gas shortages in Europe would probably last several years, raising the prospect of continued energy rationing.
Van Beurden could be replaced by the Canadian head of Shell’s integrated gas and renewables division, Wael Sawan, who is said to be the frontrunner in Shell’s search for a successor, according to Reuters. Other candidates include Shell’s chief financial officer, Sinead Gorman, its head of upstream, Zoe Yujnovich, and the boss of the company’s downstream refining operations, Huibert Vigeveno, the newswire reported.
Shell declined to comment on Van Beurden’s pending departure or his potential successors.
His departure would end a near-40-year career at Shell, which he joined in 1983. During his time as chief executive he oversaw one of the company’s biggest acquisitions in decades, buying BG Group for $53bn in 2016, and recently orchestrated the relocation of the company’s headquarters from the Netherlands to London.
While he has steered the company through two major oil market downturns, Van Beurden will leave just as sky-high oil prices are pushing Shell’s profits to record levels. Those profits are subject to a windfall tax in the UK, where consumers are facing soaring costs.
Earlier this week, Van Beurden warned that looming gas shortages caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could persist for several years, raising fears of energy rationing. “It may well be that we will have a number of winters where we have to somehow find solutions,” he told a press conference in Norway on Monday.
Van Beurden said solutions to the energy crisis would have to found through “efficiency savings, through rationing and a very, very quick buildout of alternatives”.
He added: “That this is going to be somehow easy, or over, I think is a fantasy that we should put aside.”
Shell shares rose almost 2% in morning trading on Friday.