Sacked Shell boss 'escorted from HQ'
By James Moore (Filed: 23/04/2004)
Former Shell boss Sir Philip Watts was sacked in a face-to-face meeting with his fellow directors and then escorted from the building by security, it was reported yesterday.
Reuters news agency, citing insiders at the company, said the meeting was held at the company's Shell Centre, on the south bank of the River Thames in London.
The insiders did not know whether Sir Philip was aware of what was going to happen.
The report came amid mounting speculation that the US Department of Justice could be preparing to file charges over Shell's admission in January that it wrongly booked nearly 4billion barrels of oil as "proved reserves". Since then it has twice increased the number, which on Monday had reached 4.35billion barrels - more than 22pc of its reserves.
The report into the events leading up to the January announcement, by US law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, contained a deeply damaging exchange of correspondence between Sir Philip and Walter van de Vijver, who succeeded him as head of the company's exploration and production division.
While the latter has twice issued statements through his lawyers to defend his conduct, Sir Philip has still to speak. Yesterday a spokesman for his Washington law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said that as far as she knew he had no comment to make.
Shell said that it would not comment on the circumstances of Sir Philip's departure.
On March 3 the company issued an announcement to the London Stock Exchange which said Sir Philip and Mr van de Vijver had stepped down "by mutual consent".
The company later confirmed that directors on Shell's twin boards had asked the two to go because of the "boards' wishes for a change of leadership at the group".
At the time the news stunned Shell employees, who thought Sir Philip would be able to ride out the storm.