October 6, 2011 8:23 pm

Gould leads race to become BG chairman

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Andrew Gould, the well-respected former chief executive of oilfield services group Schlumberger, has emerged as the leading candidate to take over as the next chairman of BG Group.

Mr Gould, who stepped down from his executive role at Schlumberger in August and will retire as chairman at its next annual meeting in April 2012, joined BG as a non-executive director this year. The move was intended as a precursor to his eventually taking over as chairman when Sir Robert Wilson retires in 2013, according to people familiar with the situation.

“BG went out looking for a chairman to join as a non-executive first. It’s not final yet but barring anything unforeseen, it’s a done deal,” said one person.

If confirmed as chairman, Mr Gould’s key task will be to find a successor for Frank Chapman, BG’s powerful chief executive, who has transformed the group from one focused mainly on the North Sea into a global energy player with assets in countries including Brazil and Kazakhstan. Mr Chapman has in the past indicated that he intended to leave when he turns 60 in two years’ time.

“A new chairman will have to lead the succession. It’s a big task as Frank Chapman is a difficult act to follow,” said Samuel Johar, chairman of the headhunter Buchanan Harvey.

BG is expected to cast its net wide in looking for a replacement for Mr Chapman but industry observers say a strong internal candidate will almost certainly be Martin Houston, BG’s executive director in charge of the Americas and Global LNG.

A new chairman will also have to help oversee BG’s strategy in Brazil, one of the company’s fastest-growing regions which has attracted interest from Chinese investors in recent months.

Mr Gould, who turns 65 in December, spent 36 years at Schlumberger, including eight years as chief executive. He has regularly been described as one of the most powerful men in the oil industry globally, because of the technology Schlumberger controls and its strong relationships with leading oil producers such as Saudi Arabia.

Mr Gould refused to comment on speculation he might be in the running to succeed Sir Robert in an interview with the Financial Times in June.

“I won’t stop work and, yes, I would like to stay in the industry,” he said at the time.

Schlumberger declined to comment. BG said it had “made no decision regarding chairman succession”.

“No decision to appoint a new chairman is required in the short term as our current chairman’s term was extended for three years in January 2010,” it added.

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