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Cove Energy's top trio in line for windfalls in £650m sale

A trio of senior executives are in line for a combined windfall worth tens of millions of dollars after their East Africa-focused oil and gas exploration company, Cove Energy, was put on the block with an estimated sales tag of $1bn (£645m).

John Craven, a life-long geologist who took over as Cove's chief executive in May 2009, and Michael Blaha, the former head of Shell's Algerian business, who became the oil giant's executive chairman five months later, will share the bulk of the windfall. Michael Nolan, Cove's finance director, is set to pocket the rest.

The trio has a 5 per cent share in Cove, but its precise value is difficult to calculate since is it mostly held in options.

Their likely payout emerged after the AIM-listed Cove formally put itself up for sale yesterday.

The group's exposure to the oil and gas hotspot of East Africa means it is unlikely to be short of suitors, with players such as BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil likely look at the business.

The jewel in Cove's crown is its 8.5 per cent interest in the Rovuma Area 1 block off the shore of Mozambique, a liquid natural gas project led by Anadarko Petroleum, best known in the UK for being a partner to BP in the Macondo well project responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Cove also has assets off the shores of Kenya and Tanzania.