The Times: Exploration finance chief replaced at Shell
By Carl Mortished, International Business Editor
9 April 2004
SHELL has replaced the chief financial officer of its oil exploration and production (E&P) business in a move that signals a tightening grip by head office over a division that exposed Shell to its worst management failure in the organisation’s century-long history.
Simon Henry, currently head of investor relations, is replacing Frank Coopman as E&P’s chief financial officer, who until yesterday chaired the oil and gas reserves committee. The company was rocked in January when it admitted to having inflated its proven reserves by 3.9 billion barrels of oil and gas.
A Shell spokesman would not comment on whether the finance upheaval had any link to the reserves scandal, but said that Mr Coopman had not been fired from his job. “(He) has been offered a key alternative position at a similar level in E&P. He has chosen not to accept it and we are working towards a mutually acceptable alternative.”
Mr Henry came to public notice in January’s dramatic announcement of the reserves misreporting when filling the shoes of Shell’s chairman. He had to explain the reserves restatement when the boss failed to turn up. Trained initially as an engineer and later as an accountant, Mr Henry previously held senior finance jobs in Asia.
City analysts were yesterday pleased at the appointment. “He’s been through a pretty hot furnace and handled himself well when he was given responsibilities that should not have fallen to him,” one said.
Mr Coopman, who took up his role in July 2002, reported directly to Walter van de Vijver, Shell’s former head of exploration, who lost his job last month, along with Sir Philip Watts, Shell’s executive chairman, when the group’s non-executive directors lost confidence in the two men.
The spokesman said the chief financial officer of E&P did play a role in preparing the statement of proven reserves contained in the supplementary information to Shell’s accounts. However, he said that it was not his prime responsibility.
Since Mr Van de Vijver’s departure, Shell’s group head office has moved to limit E&P’s financial reporting independence by changing the line of command. Under the new system, Mr Henry will report directly to Judy Boynton, group finance director, rather than via Malcolm Brinded, the new head of E&P.
SHELL and Lend Lease, the Australian developer, yesterday won approval from John Prescott for a Ł160 million redevelopment of the Shell Centre on London’s South Bank (Jenny Davey writes). They had appealed after a three-year planning fight, in which their scheme for shopping, leisure and 300,000 sq ft of offices at Shell’s UK headquarters, designed by Arup Associates, was rejected by Lambeth Borough Council because of its “height, bulk and massing”.