Castell tipped to take over as BP chairman

Insiders say charismatic board favourite will help Britain's biggest oil company recover from past crises
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Sir William Castell, chairman of the Wellcome Trust, has emerged as the board favourite to become chairman of oil giant BP when Sir Peter Sutherland retires next year.

BP has been searching for a chairman for several months and last week completed a benchmarking report on internal candidates, including Sir William. Charismatic and well connected in industrial and political circles, he served on a number of high-profile medical councils as well as on Gordon Brown's Business Council for Britain.

Sources say Sir William was earmarked as a potential chairman when he was invited to become a non-executive director of BP by Sir Peter last summer. He had recently stepped down as vice-chairman of GE, the vast US aircraft-to-healthcare group, where he was responsible for the global healthcare division, which he ran for 16 years.

Sir William, 59, told The Independent on Sunday that he could not comment on the chairmanship but said: "BP is undertaking its selection process and I am working with my colleagues to ensure that the best candidate is selected."

Sir Peter and most of the board are understood to agree that Sir William's breadth of experience in the medical diagnostics field and his international knowledge gathered at GE put him in an excellent position to take over from Sir Peter, who has chaired BP for decades.

Insiders say he has the right qualities to bring greater harmony to BP, which was stunned by the worst corporate disaster of the past decade when in 2005 a Texas oil refinery blew up, killing 15 people. This was followed by the hasty exit of chief executive Lord Browne after he admitted to lying over details of his personal life.

A BP spokesman was not available for comment.