Shell CEO Ben van Beurden to step down, renewables boss Wael Sawan to take the helm

Oil & Gas

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Wael Sawan will become Shell’s next chief executive on Jan. 1.
Ina Fassbender | Afp | Getty Images

Oil giant Shell on Thursday announced that CEO Ben van Beurden will step down at the end of the year after nearly a decade at the helm.

Wael Sawan, currently Shell’s director of integrated gas, renewables and energy solutions, will become its next chief executive on Jan. 1.

The news follows speculation that Shell had been actively looking for a successor to replace van Beurden as chief executive.

Reuters reported at the start of September, citing two unnamed sources, that Shell’s board succession committee had met several times in recent months to draw up plans for van Beurden’s departure and interview potential successors.

It has now been confirmed that Sawan will take over.

A dual Lebanese-Canadian national, Sawan has held roles in downstream retail and various commercial projects during his 25-year career at Shell.

“I’m looking forward to channelling the pioneering spirit and passion of our incredible people to rise to the immense challenges, and grasp the opportunities presented by the energy transition,” Sawan said in a statement, adding that it was an honor to follow van Beurden’s leadership.

“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.”

Seen here speaking at an event in Germany in 2013, Sawan has held roles in downstream retail and various commercial projects during his 25-year career at Shell.
Adam Berry | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Shares of Shell rose 0.7% during early morning deals in London. The stock price is up more than 40% year-to-date.

Van Beurden, 64, joined Shell in 1983 and became CEO of the company in 2014, after serving as director of the firm’s refining and chemicals business.

The outgoing CEO oversaw Shell’s biggest acquisition in decades with the $53 billion purchase of rival BG Group in 2016, guided the company through a historic collapse in energy demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and faced intensifying investor pressure to slash the firm’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“It has been a privilege and an honour to have served Shell for nearly four decades and to lead the company for the past nine years,” van Beurden said.

“I am very proud of what we have achieved together. I have great confidence in Wael as my successor. He is a smart, principled and dynamic leader, who I know will continue to serve Shell with conviction and dedication,” he added.

Shell said van Beurden would continue to work as an advisor to the Board through to June 30 next year, after which he will leave the company.

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