Royal Dutch Shell Group .com

Financial Times: Collum seen as candidate for Shell


By Carola Hoyos and Cathy Newman

Published: April 21 2004 5:00 | Last Updated: April 21 2004 5:00


Hugh Collum, the departing chairman of British Nuclear Fuels, is being considered by some board members of Royal Dutch/Shell to replace Lord Oxburgh as non-executive chairman of the embattled energy group's UK board.


Lord Oxburgh has made clear to non-executive members of the board that he wants to retire soon.


Certain directors of Shell Transport and Trading - the UK arm of the Anglo-Dutch group - who want to unify the dual board see Mr Collum as a way to strengthen their case against opponents of the idea, especially on the Royal Dutch board.


So far no decision has been made to unify the board in spite of pressure from some of Shell's largest shareholders.


Discussions over possible candidates are at the very early stages but Mr Collum, who announced his retirement from BNFL's board this week, is said to be entertaining the idea of joining Shell.


A person close to Shell said Mr Collum's experience in handling BNFL's troubled nuclear clean-up contract in the US would be especially valuable because Shell dealt with the investigations launched by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the justice department.


Mr Collum, appointed to BNFL's board in July 1999, became chairman two months later. In the US, he stewarded BNFL through one of its worst scandals when company cost estimates for a government contract to treat highly radioactive liquid wastes in Hanford, Washington, where nuclear weapons were produced, escalated from $6.9bn (4.1bn) to $15.2bn (9bn) from 1998-2000.


Shell announced on January 9 that it had wrongly booked 20 per cent of its oil and natural gas reserves with the SEC. Sir Philip Watts, chairman, and Walter van de Vijver, head of exploration and production, were asked to resign in March.


Other potential candidates for the chairmanship include Sir John Kerr, who is already a non-executive director of Shell Transport and Trading and who has experience and connections in Washington following his stint as UK ambassador to the US.


But detractors say that he has too little experience at Shell, where he became a member of the board in 2002. 

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