Simon Murray departs as more turmoil hits oil explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum


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The Independent Online

The former French Foreign Legionnaire Simon Murray became the latest casualty of oil explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum’s boardroom bloodletting yesterday, standing down as chairman with “immediate” effect.

Mr Murray’s departure is the price of shareholder backing for a $40.7m (£27.6m) fundraising to cover delays to payments from its assets in Kurdistan as the region’s government battles against Isis militants.

He joined the board in July 2013 when rebel investors M&G Investments and Capital Group won a battle to put four new non-executives on the board, amid concerns over corporate governance and chief executive Todd Kozel’s huge pay awards. Mr Kozel went last summer and an uneasy peace has held since then, although shares have sunk by more than 80 per cent since Mr Murray took over. The shares fell 9.88 per cent to 36.5p yesterday.

Sources said there was “no love lost” between Mr Murray and the rebel investors. One leading shareholder told The Independent: “There is a lot of room for improvement. We just want to make this company normal again.”

Mr Murray – who in 2004 became the oldest man to reach the South Pole unsupported, at 63 – was engulfed in controversy as the chairman of Glencore in 2011 when he said hiring women was risky because they fell pregnant.

After fighting against Algerian nationalists for the Foreign Legion, he set up a company in Hong Kong before working for the billionaire Li Ka-shing as the managing director of his Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate, and then running Deutsche Bank’s Asian arm.

Andrew Simon, Gulf Keystone’s senior independent director, has been named interim chairman.