Sir Bill Gammell, the founder of Cairn Energy, is to swap the chief executive's role for the chairman's as part a boardroom shake-up at the FTSE 100-listed oil company.
The change comes as Cairn looks to press on with its Arctic drilling after securing an injunction against Greenpeace to prevent campaigners from disrupting its operations off Greenland. Elsewhere, the company has spent nearly a year trying to win the Indian government's approval for its plans to sell control of its local subsidiary to the mining group Vedanta Resources in a $9.6bn (£6bn) deal.
Against this backdrop, Sir Bill, who used to play rugby for Scotland, will take over as non-executive chairman at the beginning of July. He will retain responsibility for the Vedanta deal.
In his place, Cairn named its legal and commercial director, Simon Thompson, as the new chief executive. The non-executive chairman, Norman Murray, chief operating officer, Malcolm Thoms, and engineering and operations director, Philip Tracy, will step down from the board.
The shake-up came as Cairn faced further delay in the approval of the Vedanta deal. The Indian cabinet did not discuss the issue when it met yesterday, with the oil minister S Jaipal Reddy saying: "It did not come up." Mr Reddy had previously indicated the deal would come up for discussion either this week or next.
Sir Bill, who will remain chairman of Cairn India, said his successor had "played an instrumental role in accessing the opportunities that Greenland offers the company, as well as in the delivery of value from Cairn's interests in India". "I'm delighted that he has agreed to lead the company in the next stage of its development," he added.