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The Independent (UK): Royal Dutch Shell names Nokia chief as next chairman

The Independent: Royal Dutch Shell names Nokia chief as next chairman

“Mr Ollila is expected to play a key role in the strategic development of Shell, which is still recovering from the reserves misreporting scandal last year which cost the previous chairman, Sir Philip Watts, his job and prompted the sweeping corporate overhaul of the company.”

Friday Aug 05, 2005

Michael Harrison

The oil giant Royal Dutch Shell is to appoint an outsider as chairman for the first time in its 100-year history after announcing yesterday that Jorma Ollila, the outgoing chief executive of the Finnish mobile phone group Nokia, will take up the post in June.

Mr Ollila, who will become the non-executive chairman of Nokia at the same time, will be paid pounds 500,000 in his new role at Shell and will be expected to work for the company for two to three days a week.

The 54-year-old Finnish businessman is the first non-Dutch and non-British person to chair Shell, which made the historic conversion last month to a unified company with a single board and single stock market listing. He was selected from a shortlist of half a dozen candidates which included British, Dutch and American nationals.

Lord Oxburgh, Shell’s senior independent director who led the search for a new chairman, said: ‘We were looking worldwide for a chairman with international standing, a global outlook and proven success in managing a complex organisation. In Jorma Ollila we found all those qualities and more.’

Mr Ollila was shortlisted by Shell’s headhunters, Egon Zehnder, in April and approached about the job by Lord Oxburgh at a conference in Austria at the beginning of May. At the time, Shell was not aware he was preparing to step down from his executive duties at Nokia.

Mr Ollila is expected to play a key role in the strategic development of Shell, which is still recovering from the reserves misreporting scandal last year which cost the previous chairman, Sir Philip Watts, his job and prompted the sweeping corporate overhaul of the company.

But Shell rejected suggestions that Mr Ollila would be handicapped by his lack of knowledge of the oil industry or that he might seek to interfere in the management of the company, which is led by the chief executive Jeroen van der Veer.

‘We have expertise in oil coming out of our ears,’ one senior source within the company said. ‘What we needed is someone with big strategic vision and sensitive finger tips.’ Another Shell executive likened Mr Ollila’s appointment to that of Peter Sutherland, who has been the chairman of BP since 1997.

Mr Ollila, who began his career as an investment banker with Citicorp before joining Nokia 20 years ago, was the driving force behind its transformation into the world’s biggest mobile phone producer. He has been the chief executive of the company since 1992 and is also a non-executive director of the US car company, Ford.

He will be based mainly in The Hague, where Shell’s corporate headquarters are now based, but will spend a lot of time in London, where the company has its stock market listing, maintaining contact with large institutional shareholders.

Married with three children, Mr Ollila speaks Finnish, English and Swedish and is a keen tennis player.

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