Lord Rees forced off Lasmo board: Introduction of retirement age for directors

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The Independent Online
ANGRY institutional shareholders yesterday forced the third board change at Lasmo, the troubled oil and gas explorer, in less than a year.

The company, which is struggling with huge debts and a weak oil price, announced that Lord Rees, a former Treasury minister, would be stepping down as non-executive chairman after the annual meeting in May.

Lord Rees' departure follows the resignation of Michael Pavia as finance director last month. In February Chris Greentree was ousted as chief executive and replaced by Joe Darby, formerly head of its North Sea operations. Mr Greentree received a pounds 2.2m payoff for loss of office.

The changes reflect growing dissatisfaction among Lasmo's institutional shareholders after the company's disastrous pounds 1bn takeover of Ultramar almost three years ago. Since then the shares have slumped from more than 300p to 109p, down 6p yesterday.

The company plans to appoint two non-executive members to replace those retiring. It has introduced a retirement age of 67 for its directors. Lord Rees, who received a salary of about pounds 93,000 last year, celebrated his 67th birthday yesterday.

'Lord Rees became chairman when it was important to have someone with political influence,' Mr Darby said. 'He recognises that we now need someone with different experience and skill, perhaps in industry or the City. Our shareholders have indicated that changes would be appropriate.'

The sharp fall in the oil price since the Gulf War has also exacerbated operational problems. As a result, there are growing fears that Lasmo is heading for a loss for 1993, putting its final dividend under threat. Some analysts believe it may be forced into refinancing.

Mr Darby conceded that this might happen if crude oil prices remained low for a 'long time', although it was not planned at present.