Wael Sawan to succeed Ben van Beurden as Shell CEO


Shell today announced that Ben van Beurden will step down as CEO at the end of 2022, and his successor will be Wael Sawan.

Sawan’s appointment is effective January 1, 2023 when he will also join Shell’s Board of Directors. Van Beurden will continue working as adviser to the Board until June 30, 2023, after which he will leave the group.

As the energy major looks to accelerate its energy transition, the appointment of the dual Lebanese-Canadian national, previously Director Integrated Gas, Renewables and Energy Solutions (and previously Director Upstream), dovetails with its broader strategy to embrace renewables and low-carbon technologies.

Shell’s Chair, Sir Andrew Mackenzie, said he has “all the qualities” needed to drive Shell safely and profitably through its next phase. The oil and gas giant recorded quarterly profits of $11.5bn in July. 

He said, ”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. He combines these qualities with a passion for people, which enables him to get the best from those around him.”

Sawan said he looked forward to channelling the “pioneering spirit and passion” to rise to the immense challenges, and grasp the opportunities presented by the energy transition.

”We will be disciplined and value focused, as we work with our customers and partners to deliver the reliable, affordable and cleaner energy the world needs,” he said.

Commenting on Ben van Beurden, Mackenzie said he can look back with pride on his 39-year Shell career, culminating in nine years as CEO, and his legacy will frame Shell’s success “for decades to come”.

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 said 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.

”These were all enabled by bold moves he has led, including the 2016 acquisition of BG and the transformational $30bn divestment of non-core assets that followed. He took firm, decisive action to marshal the company through the global pandemic, seizing the opportunity for a major reset to ensure we emerged fitter, stronger and equipped to succeed in the energy transition.”

Powering Progress, Shell’s detailed strategy to accelerate our profitable transition to a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, was unveiled in February 2021 and was quickly followed by moves to simplify both our organisational and share structures. 

Van Beurden was criticised for seeing his shares’ value soar to £18m, around three times his annual salary, at a time when many Europeans are suffering from a cost-of-living crisis. He also resisted calls for a windfall tax, and was warned by a Netherlands court that Shell needed to cut emissions faster.

The outgoing CEO said in his journey from LNG design engineer to CEO, he had been fortunate to work alongside many talented people from diverse backgrounds – all committed to the company’s goal of providing the world with essential commodities. 

“Wael is a smart, principled and dynamic leader, who I know will continue to serve Shell with conviction and dedication,” he said. 

Prior to joining Shell’s Executive Committee, Sawan was the Executive Vice President Deepwater and a member of the Upstream Leadership Team, and Executive Vice President Qatar and a member of the Integrated Gas Leadership Team.

He has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas during his 25-year Shell career, and has also held roles in Downstream Retail, and in various commercial and New Business Development projects.

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