Lord Browne returns to oil sector with private equity firm

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The Independent Online

Lord Browne of Madingley has made a shock return to the oil sector just three months after his ignominious exit from BP after being appointed as head of the private equity company Riverstone's new European arm.

The appointment was seen as a stunning coup for Riverstone, given Lord Browne's experience running BP during its rapid expansion during the 1990s when the oil giant acquired the US energy rival Amoco and Arco. For Lord Browne, the chance to return to the oil sector represents an ideal opportunity for the industry veteran to use his "lifelong skills and experience" and rebuild his profile after exiting BP amid a storm of publicity.

Lord Browne quit BP in May after admitting that he had misled the High Court about his relationship with a gay lover and also resigned from the board of the US investment bank Goldman Sachs over the issue. It capped a tumultuous period for BP towards the end of his time at the head of the UK oil major after a series of incidents including the explosion at the company's Texas City refinery that killed 15 workers.

Lord Browne has stepped down from his position as chairman of private equity firm Apax's advisory board, a non-executive position, to join Riverstone, which specialises in the oil and energy sector investments.

He said in a statement: "Since its founding in 2000, Riverstone has emerged as one of the leading and certainly one of the most respected private equity firms in the energy sector. This is an opportunity for me to return to the energy industry full-time, which will enable me to best apply my lifelong skills and experience. I continue to believe it is a unique and important time in the energy industry and I am quite excited to actively participate in Riverstone's growth strategy to identify and manage attractive investment opportunities."

Riverstone was established earlier this decade by two former Goldman Sachs bankers. It has since invested $6bn (£3bn) in 41 companies across the oil, power, oilfield services and renewable energy sectors and works in conjunction with private equity giant Carlyle Group.

Riverstone's founders David Leuschen and Pierre Lapeyre Jr. previously worked with Lord Browne during his tenure as a board member of Goldman Sachs. They said: "We've known, worked with and respected John Browne for nearly 25 years. He is a legend in the energy industry and we are very excited about him joining Riverstone. He is without question one of the most visionary and talented executives in the energy industry with an unparalleled global understanding."

Riverstone has invested in European oil assets in the past, including Swiss Petroplus and 4Gas, but will open a London office for the first time to accommodate Lord Browne. He is expected to lead investment in the emerging alternative and renewable markets.

Martin Halusha, chief executive of Apax, wished Lord Browne well, conceding that the private equity firm does not invest in the oil and power sectors.