Financial Times: Angry investors demand answers from Shell
By Sundeep Tucker
Published: March 4 2004
Day two, and angry Shell investors were still demanding to know what triggered Wednesday's surprise announcement.
But they were only too clear about what they wanted the company to do - exactly what they had been telling Sir Philip Watts over the past few weeks.
Their wish-list? That the board's dual structure be simplified and unified, with all the executives directly accountable to investors, and the appointment of fresh external talent to executive roles to help Shell become a "normal company".
Knight Vinke, a New York-based fund manager and investor in Royal Dutch, said "this story is not over yet". Eric Knight, managing director, said: "I met him [Sir Philip] in the US last week and felt he had accepted the need for change. We were pushing at an open door. In many ways, it is a tragedy that he is gone."
He said he was in contact with many shareholders in Royal Dutch, and hinted cryptically that a "consensus" was building ahead of April's annual meeting.
In the UK, shareholders are hoping to meet Jeroen van der Veer, Sir Philip's successor, in the next few weeks.
"We assume he'll need a few days to settle in," quipped one.
Others eagerly await their long-scheduled meetings with non-executives such as Lord Oxburgh, the interim chairman of Shell, over the next two weeks. "Shell is not a one-week or two-month story," said William Claxton-Smith of Insight, the fund manager. "Ousting Sir Philip isn't the end."
One Shell investor said the company was "in a state of crisis. Clearly, this was unplanned. We'll want answers pretty quickly."
Another lamented the opaque communication: "You shouldn't have to be a Kremlinologist to decipher what is going on at a publicly-listed company. Shell simply has to change."