Shell turns to green chief to steer transition
Shell has appointed the head of its renewables division to succeed Ben van Beurden who will step down as chief executive at the end of the year.
Wael Sawan, 48, previously headed Shell’s oil and gas production business and now oversees its growth in low carbon energies as well as its giant integrated gas business.
He was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and is a dual Lebanese-Canadian national who was raised in Dubai.
Mr Van Beurden, who has been at the helm since January 2014, will continue working as adviser to the board until 30 June 2023 after which he will leave the group.
The appointment of Mr Sawan is regarded as a signal to the market of its intentions to accelerate the transition to clean fuel sources.
Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the departing CEO had to be credited with pivoting the company away from fossil fuels.
“Ben van Beurden has achieved a lot for shareholders in his near-decade as chief executive of Shell. Principally, he has managed to navigate the company through some uncertain times as the world went ESG-crazy and businesses in the oil and gas industry were viewed as toxic entities not fit for the modern world.
“He has helped to steer Shell towards renewable energy while at the same time capitalising on the sudden surge in the oil price as the world emerged from the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis sent ripples through the energy sector.
“The CEO can even be credited for making a transformational acquisition that unlike most deals didn’t haunt the business afterwards. Typically, large acquisitions don’t turn out the way buyers hoped, but Shell’s purchase of BG in 2016 was well-timed, giving it a much bigger position in gas and thereby enabling it to benefit from this year’s surge in the commodity price.
“Van Beurden’s resignation comes as Shell’s share price returns to pre-pandemic levels, illustrating how he has steadied the ship and now seems as good a time as any to pass the baton to a new leader.”
Shell’s chair, Sir Andrew Mackenzie said: “Ben can look back with great pride on an extraordinary 39-year Shell career, culminating in nine years as an exceptional CEO.
“During the last decade, he has been in the vanguard for the transition of Shell to a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 and has become a leading industry voice on some of the most important issues affecting society.
“He leaves a financially strong and profitable company with a robust balance sheet, very strong cash generation capability and a compelling set of options for growth.”
Commenting on the new CEO, he said: “Wael Sawan is an exceptional leader, with all the qualities needed to drive Shell safely and profitably through its next phase of transition and growth.
“His track record of commercial, operational and transformational success reflects not only his broad, deep experience and understanding of Shell and the energy sector, but also his strategic clarity.”