New face on board tipped to take over when Shell chairman retires

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The Independent Online

Speculation is mounting that the next chairman of Royal Dutch Shell could be a British director who has only been on the board of the oil giant for three months.

Paul Skinner, head of refining and marketing, who became one of Shell's group managing directors in January, is said to be emerging as the favoured internal candidate to take over from Mark Moody-Stuart, who will retire from the chairman's job in June next year.

The other internal candidate is Phil Watts, the head of exploration and production, who has been a board member since 1997. But Mr Watts is felt in some quarters to be too abrasive for the job of chairman, which requires diplomacy as well as oil industry expertise.

The standard practice at Shell is for all directors, including the chairmen, to retire when they reach 60. Mr Moody-Stuart will be 60 in September.

Ordinarily he would have been succeeded by Shell's deputy chairman, Maarten van den Bergh, who is Dutch. However, Mr van den Bergh announced last month that he would retire at the end of June, throwing the succession open.

Mr van den Bergh, 58, cited "personal reasons" for his decision to retire. It is understood that he decided there was little point in taking over as chairman when he would only be able to serve one year in the job.

Although Mr Skinner, at 56, is a year old than Mr Watts and has less experience on the main board, he is thought to have more backing on the board.

It is expected that the Shell board will begin the selection process later this year and announce Mr Moody-Stuart's successor around the turn of the year, well in advance of his retirement.