Royal Dutch Shell Group .com

Financial Times: UK nuclear chief seen as Shell candidate


By Carola Hoyos and Cathy Newman in London

Published: April 20 2004 21:28 | Last Updated: April 21 2004 11:10  


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


The company confirmed on Wednesday that Lord Oxburgh, who is 70 next year, will reach the maximum age for serving non-executive directors. Lord Oxburgh has made clear to non-executive members of the board 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. No decision has been made to unify the board in spite of pressure from some of Shell's largest shareholders.


Discussions on 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 Department of Justice.


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 to $15.2bn 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, a non-executive director of Shell Transport and Trading.

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