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Phil Watts: Oil man, turned Spaceman, turned Holy Man

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 22.04.1908 February 2013  Written by Michael Owens

The former chairman of one of the world’s biggest companies is about to take on a new challenge in a small corner of east Berkshire.

The Rev Sir Philip Watts spent 35 years working for oil giant Shell before his ordination as a priest in 2011.

The 67-year-old, known to all as Phil, served as a curate in Binfield, where he has lived with his wife Jan for more than 20 years.

The father-of-two is now taking up a new position as Priest in Charge of the Benefice of Waltham St Lawrence.

He said: “I have a great sense of excitement facing a completely different challenge.

“It is a great opportunity to serve not only the people that come to the church, but everyone in the parish.”

Originally from Leicester, his work for Shell took him to Indonesia, Nigeria and Europe before he settled in Berkshire.

He received a knighthood from The Queen in 2003 recognising his services to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, which he served as chairman, as well as services to British business.

In 2001 he took the top job at Shell as chairman but left his position in 2004 during a storm of controversy after the organisation was found to have overstated its proved oil and gas reserves.

Phil admits the situation and intense scrutiny from the media was a test of his faith but he emerged stronger from the experience after his exoneration from the accusations by the FSA and the dismissal of class actions against him.

“It stopped what I was doing short but opened up the way to do what I am now doing,” he added.

“I am grateful for that.”

After his retirement from business, Phil gained a bachelor’s degree in theology and religion from Ripon College which led to his new role.

He and his wife regularly visit their daughter Sarah, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, and son Jonathan, who lives in the Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


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