Ex-Amerada Hess head steps in as Enterprise Oil chief retires early

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The Independent Online

Pierre Jungels is to unexpectedly retire as the chief executive of Enterprise Oil and be replaced by Sam Laidlaw, the former president of Amerada Hess.

Mr Jungels, 58, will retire at the end of this month, rather than serve out the year's notice required in his contract. Chief executive since 1997, he will get a pay-off of up to £700,000, to cover the salary, pension benefits and bonus he could have expected to receive over the next year.

Sources at Enterprise Oil said the board had been considering the succession issue for some time but the plan was suddenly accelerated when Mr Laidlaw became available, after he left Amerada, a US energy independent, a month ago.

Bruce Evers, an analyst at Investec Henderson Crosthwaite, said that the Enterprise portfolio is likely to be shaken up under the new chief executive. "A sale of the company cannot be ruled out," he added. Enterprise Oil's shares closed up 7 per cent at 523p.

The company is a medium-sized oil and gas explorer and producer, of a scale that does not provide the muscle of the oil majors or the nimbleness and growth potential of the minnows. Analysts said it fell between investment cases and this might now be addressed.

Mr Laidlaw, 45, joined Amerada in 1981, and is credited with building up the company's North Sea business before moving on to restructure the group's business in the United States and elsewhere.

Red Redway, of Teather & Greenwood, said: "Laidlaw has a very good record. It's not that Jungels was doing a bad job but Enterprise's story was becoming a little stale. It needs some fresh ideas and maybe Laidlaw can inject these."

A spokesman for Enterprise Oil said it was a natural time for a change at the top of the company, as it had been through a cycle of low oil prices and come out to report its best ever results last year.